Type 1 Diabetes Cost Burden Linked to Worse Blood Glucose Control in Young Adults

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Type 1 Diabetes Cost Burden Linked to Worse Blood Glucose Control in Young Adults

The financial burden of managing type 1 diabetes is linked to worse blood glucose control in young adults, according to a new study published in the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics.

In recent years, the high cost of insulin in the United States has received a great deal of media attention — prompting efforts at the federal level to lower and stabilize prices. While insulin costs are a real problem for many people with diabetes, they’re not the only major expense that many people with type 1 diabetes face. Depending on their insurance coverage, many people with type 1 have potentially considerable out-of-pocket costs for using an insulin pump or a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system — both of which may have components that are disposable and need regular replacement. Previous studies have already shown that higher levels of diabetes-related distress are linked to worse blood glucose control in young adults with type 1, and that reducing diabetes distress can lead to improved blood glucose control. While financial pressures can certainly be a source of diabetes-related distress, research shows that there may be other contributing factors like food insecurity and poor sleep. Whatever its cause, there is evidence that diabetes distress in people with type 1 can be treated and reduced.

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Concerns over the costs of diabetes

For the latest study, researchers conducted an online survey that was completed by 287 young adults, ages 18 to 30, with type 1 diabetes. Overall, 89.5% of participants “agreed” or “somewhat agreed” with the statement “I worry about the cost of diabetes.” These responses were not significantly different based on participants’ age, sex, diabetes duration, race or ethnicity, income, insurance status, student status, or use of diabetes technology. But the researchers found one major difference between groups of participants based on their responses about the cost of diabetes — 92.9% of those who didn’t worry about diabetes costs had an A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) below 7%, while only 46.2% of those who were neutral about diabetes costs and 50.6% of those who worried about diabetes costs has an A1C level below 7%. The 7% threshold is commonly used as an indicator of good blood glucose control.

As noted in an article on the study at Healio, the researchers pointed out that costs associated with type 1 diabetes have increased in recent years — with average per-person spending on health care rising from $12,467 in 2012 to $18,494 in 2016. This 48% increase in spending was largely due to a 99% overall increase in the cost of insulin during the same time period.

The researchers argued that since the financial burden faced by most young adults with type 1 diabetes is demonstrably bad for their health, doctors who treat these patients should take a broader view of their responsibilities by participating in advocacy efforts to lower diabetes costs — something they can potentially do through professional associations like the American Diabetes Association and the Endocrine Society.

Want to learn more about type 1 diabetes? Read “Type 1 Diabetes Questions and Answers,” “Six Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms You Need to Know” and see our type 1 diabetes videos.

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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