Long term health conditions

Going out

Going out and having fun is important to all young people - whether or not they have a long-term health condition. But many young people said that an important aspect of looking after yourself is knowing what you can and cannot do without risking getting run down and making yourself ill. Pacing, prioritising, time management, organising - are all skills that young people have learned in order to accommodate their condition to their lives, leisure time and recreational activities as well as their work (see also 'Looking after yourself' getting the balance right').

Several young people we spoke to said that their condition didn't stop them from going out. They took certain precautions like carrying their medication with them, avoiding too many late nights or wrapping up warmly in cold weather. For them it's a question of knowing what their bodies can and can't handle.

Other young people said that their condition did disrupt their social life. One experience that was shared by young people across all the different conditions was the need to sometimes cancel arrangements with friends or miss celebrations that they have been looking forward to. Plans could be ruined in many ways including a seizure, pain, diabetic hypos or highs, stiffness of the joints, cold weather, an asthma attack, avoiding people with colds, or going down with an infection. One young woman with epilepsy said that it can be disheartening, particularly when you have weekend plans. Another, with cystic fibrosis, found it very difficult to be in hospital when all her friends were out partying and celebrating their A-levels results. 

Several young people said that they worried about what their friends thought when they had to turn down an invitation or cancel at the last minute. This type of situation could create problems between them and their friends, particularly when they were teenagers. One woman said that some of her friends thought she was 'being funny and that I didn't want to be their friend'. Another said that, when she's in discomfort, she tries to suggest alternative activities for her and her friends.

Many young people living with conditions such as asthma, epilepsy or type 1diabetes, said that when they were teenagers or just diagnosed, they worried a lot about the effects of their condition on their social life. They felt limited and thought that they would have to change their social life to accommodate their medical condition. One teenager, diagnosed with epilepsy, said that she thought she could no longer go clubbing because the strobe lights might cause a seizure. A young woman diagnosed in her early twenties with type I diabetes said that she was afraid of going out in case she had a hypoglycaemic or hyperglycaemic episode.

Some of the young people we talked to said that their social life wasn't affected much because all their energy goes into working towards achieving their own personal goals and going out is not always a priority. A student with cystic fibrosis, who is in her final year at university and working part-time, said that at the moment she doesn't have the time to go out.

Not everyone is able to go out with their friends or family. One sixteen year old is having to spent weekends at hospital having dialysis and only sees his friends when he goes to school twice a week. He says that he makes up for it by playing computer games and watching videos. His mother said that his social life would be greatly improved if he were to have the dialysis treatment at home. An eighteen year old living with muscular dystrophy would like to see better disabled access in transport and public buildings for people in wheelchairs. A young woman with chronic pain finds social life very difficult and said she has missed a lot of both family and social events.

Learning to drive can be very important for young people who can't easily get around using public transport. One young man who's had arthritis since he was two years old recently passed his driving test. Driving has given him a new freedom and independence and he is able to go out more often than ever before. 

For information on driving and transport see our practical matters resources.

Last reviewed May 2014.
Last updated February 2012.

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