Exploring and addressing the unmet treatment needs of women with diabetes experiencing sexual health problems

Identification of sexual dysfunction is a significant problem preventing treatment; this PhD will conduct exploratory, review and survey work to produce a blueprint for intervention development.

Start date
1 October 2021
Three years
Application deadline
Funding source
The University of Surrey, Project-led Studentship Award
Funding information

Funding covers: 

  • Full UK/EU tuition fee 
  • Stipend at £15,285 p.a. (2020/21) 
  • RTSG of £1,000 p.a. 
  • Personal Computer (provided by the department).


Women with diabetes are likely to experience sexual health problems at some point during their life. For many it manifests as painful sexual intercourse with a partner which can affect emotional relationships and subsequent psychological well-being. Women are often unaware it is associated with diabetes and do not seek treatment. Unlike for men where discussion of sexual health is part of diabetes consultations for women the focus is on contraception and avoiding unplanned pregnancy. Therefore, women’s sexual health comes second place to health professionals’ concerns regarding avoiding or planning for pregnancy. Identification of sexual problems in women with diabetes is a significant problem preventing treatment. Women may be unwilling to discuss sexual problems with health care professionals and unaware that some of these problems are diabetes-related.  

This studentship will aim to meet the unmet treatment needs of women with diabetes experiencing sexual health problems and produce a blueprint for new resources and interventions for women with diabetes to access.  

The specific objectives are: 

  1. To conduct a systematic review of the views and experiences of women with sexual health problems and diabetes (months 1-12).  
  2. To determine the prevalence and correlates of sexual health problems in women with diabetes across UK care settings (months 6-24).  
  3. To investigate the lived experience of women with diabetes and sexual health problems via qualitative, semi-structured interviews (months 12-24).  
  4. To determine health care professionals’ views of sexual dysfunction identification for women with diabetes; the current and future treatment and service provision for women with sexual health problems and diabetes using survey methods (months 18-30).  

Supervisory Team: 

Dr Debbie Cooke, Health Sciences 

Dr David Griffiths, Sociology 

Dr Kirsty Winkley, Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery, King’s College London 


Jackie Fosbury, Diabetes Care for You, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust 

Eligibility criteria

Applicants are expected to hold a good honours degree (upper second) in an appropriate discipline, but prior experience in research or health and social care may be acceptable. An MSc in an appropriate discipline is desirable.  

This studentship is only for UK and EU applicants. 

IELTS requirements: If English is not your first language, you will be required to have an IELTS Academic of 6.5 or above (or equivalent), with no sub-test score below 6. 

The programme will be the Health Sciences PhD.

How to apply

Applications can be made through the Health Sciences PhD programme page at the University of Surrey.

Please submit copies of educational qualifications, your CV and a research proposal for this project of up to 5 pages including the following sections: rationale, research question and objectives, study design and methodology.   

Application deadline

Contact details

Debbie Cooke
08 DK 04
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 682926
E-mail: d.cooke@surrey.ac.uk

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