Shedding new light on the (in)compatibility of chronic disease management with everyday life – social practice theory, mobile technologies and the interwoven time‐spaces of teenage life

Tim Harries, Ruth Rettie, Jonathan Gabe

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This paper uses a socio-material approach, social practice theory, to provide new insights into the self-management of chronic illness. It demonstrates how this theory can bridge arguments about the respective roles of social and individual influences, and how it can foreground an oft-overlooked aspect of the issue – the demands of self-care technologies and consequences for participation in social life. Drawing on interviews and focus-groups with 25 young type-1 diabetes outpatients in London, UK, the study points to the conflicts that occur when disease management technologies compete for time and space with the social practices of everyday life, and when self-care tasks threaten to interrupt the flow of social life and make people feel ‘left behind’. The paper concludes that young people are disabled by the contingent position of self-care activities in daily life, which oblige them to compromise either their physical health or their immersion in the social world. This disabling effect would be mitigated if social practices were reorganised to make them more amenable to the timespace requirements of disease management. A social practice theory lens can help throw light onto this issue and make a valuable contribution to the study of the self-management of chronic illness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Early online date24 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 May 2019


  • chronic disease management
  • social practice theory
  • mobile technologies
  • timespace
  • type-1 diabetes

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