Having diabetes and having to fast: a qualitative study of British Muslims with diabetes

Health Expect. 2015 Oct;18(5):1698-708. doi: 10.1111/hex.12163. Epub 2014 Jan 20.


Background: There are approximately 2.7 million Muslims in the UK, constituting 4.8% of the population. It is estimated that 325,000 UK Muslims have diabetes. Whilst dietary practices of Muslims with diabetes have been explored, little work has described the beliefs and decisions to fast during Ramadan, whereby Muslims with diabetes refrain from eating, drinking and taking medication between sunrise and sunset.

Objective: To explore beliefs and experiences of fasting during Ramadan of Muslim respondents with diabetes and their perceptions of the role played by their general practitioner (GP) and/or practice nurse (PN) in supporting them.

Design: Qualitative study.

Setting: General practices and community groups located in Greater Manchester.

Participants: 23 South Asian Muslims.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted as part of the Collaboration of Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) programme, Greater Manchester. Respondents were recruited using random and purposive sampling techniques. Interviews were analysed thematically using a constant comparison approach.

Results: Thirteen respondents reported they fasted and altered diabetes medication and diet during Ramadan. The decision to fast was influenced by pressures from the family and the collective social aspect of fasting, and respondents made limited contact with primary care during fasting.

Conclusion: Tensions exist between the respondent's personal desire to fast or not fast and their family's opinion on the matter, with a strong reluctance to disclose fasting to GP and/or PN. Future research needs to explore whether GPs or PNs feel competent enough to support patients who wish to fast.

Keywords: diabetes; fasting; muslims; primary care; qualitative; ramadan.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication
  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Diet*
  • England
  • Fasting*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Islam*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Religion and Medicine