“Diabetes is like an et al." An exploration of the lived experiences of university students with diabetes in relation to support at university

  • Publa Antwi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The young adult population can face greater challenges in managing diabetes than either those younger or older than them. The literature highlights that young adulthood is a life stage where individuals face multiple life transitions, such as attending university. However, navigating these transitions can become more complex as one simultaneously manages diabetes. Starting university is filled with many complexities and opportunities. Further literature suggests that being supported socially in different aspects during this transition can provide many benefits, such as reduced diabetes-related distress, enhanced belonging and academic success. This current research takes a phenomenological approach to understanding the lived experiences of students with diabetes as they transition and adapt to university concerning their support networks.

First, seven in-depth dyadic interviews with seven undergraduate and postgraduate taught students with Type 1 diabetes and their peers were conducted. These interviews were digitally recorded and analysed using a multi-perspective form of interpretative phenomenological analysis methods. Subsequently, twelve in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with disability and well-being staff at various universities across the UK. These interviews were online and analysed using Template Analysis using a-priori themes from the first study's findings.

Study one's finding showed the complexities of managing diabetes at university, but the dyads also emphasised similarities in their description of the supportive behaviours of peers displayed, particularly concerning upholding one's identity, creating a sense of belonging, and developing a shared supportive environment. Study two's findings highlighted ways support was approached, including the complexities of supporting students with diabetes, such as the lack of engagement from students. In addition, the institution, policy and practice were factors outside the staff's control that impacted on the provision of support. Combining these findings highlights a potentially valuable understanding of support experiences for students with diabetes going to university and their respective support networks.
Date of Award5 Oct 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCaroline Barker (Main Supervisor)

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