According to a new study published in The Diabetes Educator, peer mentoring could help adolescents and young adults manage their type 1 diabetes more effectively.

"Many adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes are interested in peer mentoring as an approach to help improve patient adherence and glycemic control," Dr. Yang Lu, assistant professor at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and researcher at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, told Endocrine Today. "Clinicians play a critical role in identifying and connecting youth with diabetes who seek peer support."

Lu and her colleagues spoke to 54 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18, as well as 46 young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 to determine their interest in a peer-mentoring program for type 1 diabetes management and better understand how it might help them. In the program, young adults would act as mentors to adolescents living with type 1 diabetes.

Medical testing was undertaken on adolescents and young adults alike, and found both groups fell short in their diabetes management—with young adults performing more poorly on many metrics than adolescents. Self-reported impediments to good diabetes control included feelings of social discomfort regarding monitoring blood glucose or administering insulin in public situations.

What adolescents and young adults want

Of the adolescents surveyed, 57 percent said they would be interested in participating in a peer-mentoring program. Those adolescents who were more likely to be interested tended to have supportive friends and big families. Other factors—such as numbers related to diabetes control and whether the adolescents were depressed—seemed not to have an impact. Only six young adults said they would not like to be a mentor, citing a lack of time.

Those adolescents who were interested in a mentoring program envisioned one that could take place over phone, text messaging, and social media, while young adults who wanted to be mentors thought it would be ideal to conduct their conversations over the phone, email, or text messaging.

"Adolescents who lack positive experiences communicating about their diabetes with friends may not have a frame of reference for understanding how a peer-mentoring program could be beneficial," the researchers concluded. "However, they may benefit as much, or more, from a peer-mentoring program."

Diabetes clinicians—and the parents of adolescents with type 1 diabetes—should be aware of the possibilities inherent in peer mentoring.

For more on type 1 diabetes:

Can Type 2 Diabetes Turn into Type 1?
Type 1 Diabetes: Preparing for Your Appointment
How Often Should a Type 1 Test Blood Sugars?