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‘I call it the blame and shame disease’: a qualitative study about perceptions of social stigma surrounding type 2 diabetes
  1. Jessica L Browne1,2,
  2. Adriana Ventura1,3,
  3. Kylie Mosely4,
  4. Jane Speight1,2,5
  1. 1The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes, Diabetes Australia—Vic, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing Research, School of Psychology, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3School of Psychology, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4School of Psychology, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5AHP Research, Hornchurch, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jessica L Browne; jbrowne{at}


Objectives While health-related stigma has been the subject of considerable research in other conditions (obesity and HIV/AIDS), it has not received substantial attention in diabetes. The aim of the current study was to explore the social experiences of Australian adults living with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), with a particular focus on the perception and experience of diabetes-related stigma.

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

Setting This study was conducted in non-clinical settings in metropolitan and regional areas in the Australian state of Victoria. Participants were recruited primarily through the state consumer organisation representing people with diabetes.

Participants All adults aged ≥18 years with T2DM living in Victoria were eligible to take part. Twenty-five adults with T2DM participated (12 women; median age 61 years; median diabetes duration 5 years).

Results A total of 21 (84%) participants indicated that they believed T2DM was stigmatised, or reported evidence of stigmatisation. Specific themes about the experience of stigma were feeling blamed by others for causing their own condition, being subject to negative stereotyping, being discriminated against or having restricted opportunities in life. Other themes focused on sources of stigma, which included the media, healthcare professionals, friends, family and colleagues. Themes relating to the consequences of this stigma were also evident, including participants’ unwillingness to disclose their condition to others and psychological distress. Participants believed that people with type 1 diabetes do not experience similar stigmatisation.

Conclusions Our study found evidence of people with T2DM experiencing and perceiving diabetes-related social stigma. Further research is needed to explore ways to measure and minimise diabetes-related stigma at the individual and societal levels, and also to explore perceptions and experiences of stigma in people with type 1 diabetes.

  • Social Medicine
  • Public Health

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