"I've made this my lifestyle now": a prospective qualitative study of motivation for lifestyle change among people with newly diagnosed type two diabetes mellitus.

BMC public health. 2018;18(1):204

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Plain language summary

The point of diagnosis with T2DM is an opportunity for clinicians to help patients initiate changes in lifestyle behaviours such as physical activity and diet. Diagnosis with T2DM provokes a range of emotional responses, close scrutiny of patients’ lifestyle, threats to people’s social and personal identity and the need to construct a new identity representation. The aim of the study is to qualitatively explore how people newly diagnosed with T2DM articulate and experience motivation for lifestyle change as proposed in self-determination theory, and to examine qualitative evidence for patients’ motivational internalisation over time (i.e., transition from controlled to autonomous motivation). The study is a secondary analysis of semi-structured interview data collected with individuals who had been newly diagnosed with T2DM and were participants in the Early ACTID (Early ACTivity In Diabetes) trail. The ACTID was a lifestyle RCT involving 593 adults aged between 30 and 80 years who had received a diagnosis of T2DM within the previous 6 months. The results are presented as six themes reflecting the motivation types in self-determination theory with narratives reflecting internalisation (or the lack of) integrated alongside each motivation type. Some participants were reluctant to change and articulated a passivity towards any changes reported. Whereas for some participants, health-based reasons for change, prompted by their T2DM diagnosis, were more motivating than their previous extrinsic appearance-based weight loss goals. The findings suggest that if T2DM patients can be supported to internalise their motivation to the point of identifying a personal benefit or integrate changes as part of an enjoyable way of life, such changes may be more sustainable and resilient to common challenges to behaviour change (such as lack of time, periods of holidays and changes in routine). It is important to consider not only the quantity of a patient’s motivation but also the quality based on the extent to which it is self-directed.


BACKGROUND Diagnosis with Type 2 Diabetes is an opportunity for individuals to change their physical activity and dietary behaviours. Diabetes treatment guidelines recommend theory-based, patient-centred care and advocate the provision of support for patient motivation but the motivational experiences of people newly diagnosed with diabetes have not been well studied. Framed in self-determination theory, this study aimed to qualitatively explore how this patient group articulate and experience different types of motivation when attempting lifestyle change. METHODS A secondary analysis of semi-structured interview data collected with 30 (n female = 18, n male = 12) adults who had been newly diagnosed with type two diabetes and were participants in the Early ACTID trial was undertaken. Deductive directed content analysis was performed using NVivo V10 and researcher triangulation to identify and describe patient experiences and narratives that reflected the motivation types outlined in self-determination theory and if/how these changed over time. RESULTS The findings revealed the diversity in motivation quality both between and within individuals over time and that patients with newly-diagnosed diabetes have multifaceted often competing motivations for lifestyle behaviour change. Applying self-determination theory, we identified that many participants reported relatively dominant controlled motivation to comply with lifestyle recommendations, avoid their non-compliance being "found out" or supress guilt following lapses in behaviour change attempts. Such narratives were accompanied by experiences of frustrating slow behaviour change progress. More autonomous motivation was expressed as something often achieved over time and reflected goals to improve health, quality of life or family time. Motivational internalisation was evident and some participants had integrated their behaviour change to a new way of life which they found resilient to common barriers. CONCLUSIONS Motivation for lifestyle change following diagnosis with type two diabetes is complex and can be relatively low in self-determination. To achieve the patient empowerment aspirations of current national health care plans, intervention developers, and clinicians would do well to consider the quality not just quantity of their patients' motivation. TRIAL REGISTRATION ISRCTN ISRCTN92162869 . Retrospectively registered.

Functional medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Neurological
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Motivation
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Physical exercise ; Psychosocial influences
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Exercise and movement
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Allocation concealment : Not applicable


Nutrition Evidence keywords : Type2DiabetesMellitus ; T2DM