Patient age: a neglected factor when considering disease management in adults with type 2 diabetes

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Nov;85(2):154-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.10.030. Epub 2010 Nov 26.


Objective: The average age at diagnosis for type 2 diabetes is decreasing. However, because age is most often controlled for in clinical research, little is known regarding how adult age is associated with diabetes disease-related variables.

Methods: In a community based study with type 2 diabetes patients (N=506), after adjusting for potentially confounding variables, we examined associations between patients' age and: stress, depression, diabetes-related distress, self-efficacy, diet, exercise, and glycemic control. We then explored to what extent age interacts with these variables in their association with glycemic control.

Results: Younger age was independently associated with: greater chronic stress and negative life events, higher levels of diabetes-related distress, higher depressed affect, eating healthier foods and exercising less frequently, lower diabetes self-efficacy, and higher HbA1c. Interactions showed that younger patients with high stress and/or low self-efficacy were more likely to have higher HbA1c levels than older patients.

Conclusions: Results suggest younger adult patients with type 2 diabetes represent a unique patient subgroup with specific needs and health risks based on their developmental stage and life context.

Practice implications: Treatment programs need to target younger adult patients and may need to utilize different media or modalities (e.g., social media) to reach this group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Care
  • Self Efficacy
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A