The Complexities of “Struggling to Live Life”: The Experiences of Young Adults With T1DM Living in Appalachia

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The purpose of the study was to explore and describe perceptions and experiences of young adults with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) living in Appalachia, Tennessee.


Qualitative descriptive analysis of in-depth interviews of 9 young adults (male = 3, female = 6) 18 to 30 years of age living in Appalachian counties in Tennessee provided the basis of identifying the salient concerns from the perspective of this diverse group related to living daily with T1DM. Data analysis was facilitated by using NVivo 11 Pro and consisted of iterative review of the accounts in 3 phases: immersion, reduction, and interpretation.


Findings revealed that young Appalachian adults had some common, consistent experiences living with T1DM. Major themes included the struggle toward adulthood, the daily struggle of living with diabetes, the strong desire to live life, the supportive environment, the development of one’s identity by diabetes, the disruptiveness of diabetes’ demands, and the pros and cons of technological development in diabetes management.


Health vulnerabilities are multiplied for young adults living with T1DM in Appalachian Tennessee. Participants pointed to living in communities with social stigma, lack of T1DM knowledge, and lack of access to health care that compares with the quality of care they experienced when in pediatric care. They also expressed fear about pregnancy, diabetes complications, and the dangers of hypoglycemia. Individual and community-based empowerment programs focusing on T1DM accompanied by insurance reimbursement and T1DM policy reinforcement are necessary to reduce health disparities and improve quality of life in this underserved population of young adults in Appalachia.

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