Young people's experiences of managing Type 1 diabetes at university: a national study of UK university students

Joanne Kellett, Mike Sampson, Francesca Swords, Helen R Murphy, Allan Clark, Amanda Howe, Chris Price, Vipan Datta, Khin Swe Myint

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Aim: Little is known about the challenges of transitioning from school to university for young people with Type 1 diabetes. In a national survey, we investigated the impact of entering and attending university on diabetes self‐care in students with Type 1 diabetes in all UK universities.

Methods: Some 1865 current UK university students aged 18–24 years with Type 1 diabetes, were invited to complete a structured questionnaire. The association between demographic variables and diabetes variables was assessed using logistic regression models.

Results: In total, 584 (31%) students from 64 hospitals and 37 university medical practices completed the questionnaire. Some 62% had maintained routine diabetes care with their home team, whereas 32% moved to the university provider. Since starting university, 63% reported harder diabetes management and 44% reported higher HbA1c levels than before university. At university, 52% had frequent hypoglycaemia, 9.6% reported one or more episodes of severe hypoglycaemia and 26% experienced diabetes‐related hospital admissions. Female students and those who changed healthcare provider were approximately twice as likely to report poor glycaemic control, emergency hospital admissions and frequent hypoglycaemia. Females were more likely than males to report stress [odds ratio (OR) 4.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.19–7.16], illness (OR 3.48, 95% CI 2.06–5.87) and weight management issues (OR 3.19, 95% CI 1.99–5.11) as barriers to self‐care. Despite these difficulties, 91% of respondents never or rarely contacted university support services about their diabetes.

Conclusion: The study quantifies the high level of risk experienced by students with Type 1 diabetes during the transition to university, in particular, female students and those moving to a new university healthcare provider.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1063-1071
Number of pages9
JournalDiabetic Medicine
Issue number8
Early online date23 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • diabetes
  • diabetes type 1
  • young people
  • university
  • transition
  • health care delivery

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