A lifeworld phenomenological study of the experience of falling ill with diabetes

Int J Nurs Stud. 2009 Feb;46(2):197-203. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2008.09.001. Epub 2008 Oct 26.


Background and aim: The aim of the study was to develop knowledge from a patient perspective about falling ill with diabetes. The focus on the process of falling ill process is useful to increase the understanding of this patient group and thus these patients could be met in a way that better lessens their suffering and better facilitates their adaptation to the illness and the new life situation.

Design: The study has been carried out within caring science and a lifeworld phenomenological approach. The data were composed by written narratives, which were analyzed for meaning.

Participants and setting: Seven persons with newly discovered diabetes at two hospitals in the south of Sweden have participated in the study.

Results: The result shows that the essential meaning of falling ill with diabetes is a fight not to become one's illness, that everything is to remain as usual and that the new situation will become the natural one. To fall ill with diabetes means to be involved in a course of events charged with emotional diversity. An initial feeling of bodily imbalance can be denied or given a natural explanation, but gives rise to a suspicion that something is wrong. When the bodily imbalance is verified as diabetes, it can be acknowledged and eventually accepted, but the acceptance is possibly an illusory or false reconciliation to be able to go on. There is anyway no choice, if they want to feel well they have to be "adaptable" to their illness, which makes demands that have to be reconciled; demands that must not be allowed to "govern" their lives. Despite being diagnosed with diabetes they still want to continue the same life and be the same persons as before-although they now carry a disease.

Conclusion: The result of the study indicates that more caring focus needs to be directed to the process of falling ill. More efforts are needed to prevent the ill persons from becoming their illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Sweden