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Are Teens Foregoing Diabetes Technology?

A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health last year researched the way teenagers and young adults use diabetes technology. The results were somewhat surprising to the lead researcher, Korey K Hood, PhD, professor of endocrinology pediatrics at Stanford University’s Lucille Salter Packard Children’s Hospital. Although teens are more tech-savvy, the study concluded that they are less likely to discuss their health online, and they sometimes forego diabetes technology altogether.

Study findings: social media

Teens are more connected than ever thanks to social media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re willing to share the intimate details of their health struggles.

Of the participants studied, only half of them posted about their health on social media within the last six months. About three-quarters of them posted about their mood, and only 42 percent posted about any acute medical issues they were dealing with. Additionally, teens were found to not use social media to connect with their healthcare providers. Instead, they preferred text messaging.

When it came to sharing specific details about their health, teens shared more about how they perform tasks and carb count, and less about test results like blood sugar testing and A1c.

The researchers concluded that teens were more likely to opt for privacy when it comes to the specifics of their diabetes management.


Study findings: diabetes technology

Teens may be more tech-savvy than older generations, but they are not necessarily eager to use diabetes technology. Hood divided teens into four groups based on their readiness to use diabetes technology in order to pair them with the type of device that would work best for them.

  1. Diabetes eraser – This group has a positive attitude towards technology and is eager to use new devices. They have low diabetes distress. Their goal is to maintain their efforts and health.
  2. Wary Wearer – This group has a few barriers and average attitudes toward technology. They are not as eager to use devices and have higher diabetes distress. For these teens, Hood recommended education, problem-solving, and support.
  3. Data minimalist – These teens use devices like continuous glucose monitors (CGM) infrequently and have average attitudes toward technology. These teens may need help problem-solving or technology problem-solving.
  4. Free rangers – This group is at high risk of diabetes complications. They generally have negative views toward technology and have above average diabetes and hypoglycemia distress. For these teens, Hood recommended simulated situations and general diabetes education.

The study also concludes that there are more barriers between some users and their technology, like access and affordability of devices.