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Self-management experiences among men and women with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a qualitative analysis

Rebecca Mathew1*, Enza Gucciardi2, Margaret De Melo3 and Paula Barata4

Author Affiliations

1 Northern Ontario School of Medicine, East Campus, Laurentian University, 935 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario, P3E 2C6, Canada

2 School of Nutrition, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5B 2K3, Canada

3 University Health Network Diabetes Education Center, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4 Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, 4005 - Mackinnon Extension, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:122  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-122

Published: 19 December 2012



The purpose of this study is to better understand differences in diabetes self-management, specifically needs, barriers and challenges among men and women living with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).


35 participants were recruited from a diabetes education center (DEC) in Toronto, Canada. Five focus groups and nine individual interviews were conducted to explore men and women's diabetes self-management experiences.


The average age of participants was 57 years and just over half (51.4%) were female. Analyses revealed five themes: disclosure and identity as a person living with diabetes; self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG); diet struggles across varying contexts; utilization of diabetes resources; and social support. Women disclosed their diabetes more readily and integrated management into their daily lives, whereas men were more reluctant to tell friends and family about their diabetes and were less observant of self-management practices in social settings. Men focused on practical aspects of SMBG and experimented with various aspects of management to reduce reliance on medications whereas women focused on affective components of SMBG. Women restricted foods from their diets perceived as prohibited whereas many men moderated their intake of perceived unhealthy foods, except in social situations. Women used socially interactive resources, like education classes and support groups whereas men relied more on self-directed learning but also described wanting more guidance to help navigate the healthcare system. Finally, men and women reported wanting physician support for both affective and practical aspects of self-management.


Our findings highlight the differences in needs and challenges of diabetes self-management among men and women, which may inform gender-sensitive diabetes, care, counseling and support.

Diabetes; Self-management; Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus; Sex; Gender