Diabetes isn't an illness- It's a nuisance

Smith, Julie Rosemary (2011). Diabetes isn't an illness- It's a nuisance. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ed88


Diabetes is a controllable, but not curable, long term condition usually self-managed in daily life. Much existing knowledge of diabetes is focussed on the biomedical and compliance models of care. In contrast, this thesis focuses on how women in midlife perceive the experience of living with diabetes.

An exploratory sequential mixed methods approach, within a feminist empowerment framework, examined the experiences of women aged 41-60 with insulin treated diabetes. Data collection methods included a focus group (Stage 1; n=5), survey (Stage 2; n=59), and face to face interviews and journal keeping (Stage 3; n=23 and 18 respectively). It is with the final stage that this thesis is primarily concerned. Ethical approval was obtained from an advisory ethics committee at the Open University.

The research questions were:

- What do women describe as stressful in relation to their insulin treated diabetes?

- What impact do these stressors have on women's lives?

- How do women with insulin treated diabetes interpret and manage their lives?

Two overarching and interlinked themes of experiencing stress and maintaining control were identified from Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Three other major themes were:

- Diabetes as a nuisance;

- Diabetes in daily life;

- Diabetes during times of crisis.

Conclusions were that women in midlife who live with diabetes experience a range of stressors, and that there is a complex cyclical relationship between stress and diabetes with the potential for this to become a spiralling one. The originality of the study is in the area of identifying diabetes as a nuisance. Poetic representation of the data has been utilised to represent this theme, which will be used in dissemination of findings to both lay and professional audiences. There is the potential for both clinical application of these findings and future research.

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