21 Oct 2022

Improving the mental health of young people with diabetes

The burden of diabetes can weigh heavily on the mental health and wellbeing of young adults particularly as they juggle life’s transitions such as school, work and relationships. In fact, 40-60% of young people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes have a mental health condition. This affects their ability to self-manage their diabetes thereby increasing their risk of complications.

Recognising the impact that diabetes has on mental health is the driving factor behind the Apps and Peer support of a Healthy future and Living well with Diabetes study (APHLID) which today received $744,873 in MTP Connect funding (Targeted Translation Research Accelerator [TTRA] Program Round 2) as one of their key priority areas in diabetes research: mental health.

The study run by Maridulu Budyari Gumal (SPHERE) Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Disease Clinical Academic Group (DOM CAG) is a collaboration between five SPHERE partners: Western Sydney University, South Western Sydney Local Health district (SWSLHD), South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD), Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) and St Vincent’s Health Network (SVHN Sydney).

“This funding shows the benefit of working collaboratively with our partners towards a common goal,” said Chief Investigator and DOM CAG Co-leader, Professor David Simmons.

Hospitalisations for young adults with diabetes are more common among those with mental health issues and limited access to mental health services can further aggravate the situation, explains Professor Simmons.

“Our project seeks to create and test a technology-enabled model of care using a clinically validated digital platform that leverages peer support.”

The model combines five aspects of care which includes: apps to address common mental health issues including anxiety, depression and eating disorders; links to digital tools to self-manage type 1 diabetes; a proven digital platform for day-to-day lifestyle and type 2 diabetes self-management; digital links to the healthcare team; and access to an online peer support network.

The six-month randomised controlled trial of the model will compare the impact of the approach on distress, wellbeing, healthcare costs, glucose and weight management among 142 young adults living with diabetes and mental health conditions. A parallel cohort study among those without a mental health condition will study the effect of the approach on maintenance of good mental health.

With a vigorous evaluation process in place, the model has pathways to scale across six hospitals including Campbelltown, Westmead Children’s, St Vincent’s, St George, Liverpool, and Bankstown-Lidcombe hospitals, as well as across two regional Aboriginal Medical Services.

“There is a desperate need to support young adults with diabetes, who have mental health issues as well as help to maintain mental health wellbeing. We hope this study will help us find the best way to fulfill that need,” Professor Simmons said.

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