"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

Simon J. Sebire*, Zoi Toumpakari, Katrina M. Turner, Ashley R. Cooper, Angie S. Page, Alice Malpass, Robert C. Andrews

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
371 Downloads (Pure)


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
Original languageEnglish
Article number204
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2018


  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • motivation
  • behaviour change
  • intervention
  • qualitative


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