'I'm not a druggie, I'm just a diabetic': a qualitative study of stigma from the perspective of adults with type 1 diabetes

BMJ Open. 2014 Jul 23;4(7):e005625. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005625.


Objectives: While health-related stigma has been the subject of considerable research in other conditions (eg, HIV/AIDS, obesity), it has not received substantial attention in diabetes. Our aim was to explore perceptions and experiences of diabetes-related stigma from the perspective of adults with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Design: A qualitative study using semistructured interviews, which were audio recorded, transcribed and subject to thematic analysis.

Setting: All interviews were conducted in non-clinical settings in metropolitan areas of Victoria, Australia.

Participants: Adults aged ≥18 years with T1DM living in Victoria were eligible to take part. Participants were recruited primarily through the state consumer organisation representing people with diabetes. A total of 27 adults with T1DM took part: 15 (56%) were women; median IQR age was 42 (23) years and diabetes duration was 15 (20) years).

Results: Australian adults with T1DM perceive and experience T1DM-specific stigma as well as stigma-by-association with type 2 diabetes. Such stigma is characterised by blame, negative social judgement, stereotyping, exclusion, rejection and discrimination. Participants identified the media, family and friends, healthcare professionals and school teachers as sources of stigma. The negative consequences of this stigma span numerous life domains, including impact on relationships and social identity, emotional well-being and behavioural management of T1DM. This stigma also led to reluctance to disclose the condition in various environments. Adults with T1DM can be both the target and the source of diabetes-related stigma.

Conclusions: Stigmatisation is part of the social experience of living with T1DM for Australian adults. Strategies and interventions to address and mitigate this diabetes-related stigma need to be developed and evaluated.


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1* / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Stigma*
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Victoria
  • Young Adult