Diabetes and the student body
In this study I examine young peoples' experiences of managing their diabetes in university. Previous studies of students with diabetes have highlighted the problematic effects that the transition from home to university can have for these young people. Young people with diabetes are thought to be at risk of experiencing peer pressure, drinking too much alcohol and eating unhealthy foods. Such practices are often figured to be representative of a `student lifestyle', one governed by selfindulgence, and are seen to be in conflict with the lifestyle that a well controlled young person with diabetes should maintain. Earlier studies are themselves problematic in several respects, however. First of all they typically see the young person's `student identity' as being an a priori risk to their diabetes care. Secondly these studies often ignore young people's own understandings of risk, or fail to recognize the socially embedded nature of risk for young people with diabetes. Thirdly they often see the transition from home to university as an undifferentiated, uni-directional phenomenon whose effect is the same for all young people with diabetes. Once these students make the transition to university, their diabetes control is thought to take second place to more `pressing', risky concerns. In this study I argue otherwise. By attending to young people's own narratives of practice in relation to their food, alcohol and technological consumption, I show that young people with diabetes are often extremely concerned about their diabetes control at university, though the meaning of control for these students is mediated by their positions within and dispositions towards discourses of gender and health, the stages they are at in their university careers, and what they consider to be `normal' behaviours. Overall, my findings challenge the received wisdom of much medical research on young people with diabetes who have been characterised as leading `hedonistic' lifestyles, taking undue risks with little apparent concern for the future. By attending to students' own narrative accounts of living with diabetes a very different picture emerges where risks are embedded within specific social contexts. This more relational view of respondents' experience has implications for how health professionals care for young people with diabetes.