Experiences of diabetes self-management: a focus group study among Australians with type 2 diabetes

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Aims and objectives.

The aim of this study was to explore the experiences and concerns of individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus, in a predominantly low socio-economic setting.


Currently, approximately 1 million Australians have diabetes and rates have more than doubled since 1989. Type 2 diabetes mellitus accounts for approximately 85% of diabetes cases. Risk factors include obesity, older age, low socio-economic status, sedentary lifestyle and ethnicity. Older individuals from low socio-economic backgrounds are particularly at risk of both developing and of mismanaging their condition.


Exploratory qualitative design.


Focus groups were used to collect data from 22 individuals, aged 40 to more than 70 years, with type 2 diabetes mellitus, who were attending local health services for their diabetes care. Focus groups ranged in size from four to eight individuals and all were recorded, transcribed and analysed. Data were analysed using a thematic analysis approach.


Participants described their experiences of managing their diabetes as emotionally, physically and socially challenging. Data analysis revealed four main themes including: (1) diabetes the silent disease; (2) a personal journey (3) the work of managing diabetes; and (4) access to resources and services. Throughout, participants highlighted the impact of diabetes on the family, and the importance of family members in providing support and encouragement to assist their self-management efforts.


Participants in this study were generally satisfied with their diabetes care but identified a need for clear simple instruction immediately post-diagnosis, followed by a need for additional informal information when they had gained some understanding of their condition.

Relevance to clinical practice.

Findings reveal a number of unmet information and support needs for individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. In particular, it is important for healthcare professionals and family members to recognise the significant emotional burden that diabetes imposes, and the type and quantity of information individuals with diabetes prefer. It is also important to consider levels of health literacy in the community when developing diabetes-related information or programmes.

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