Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a common genetic blood disorder with short and long-term physical and mental health effects. This population faces additional challenges such as stigma and health inequities, but also challenges within relationships, due to their condition. However, very little is known about how SCD affects romantic relationships, and specifically men’s perspectives on this.
A qualitative methodology, using semi-structured interviews, was utilised to explore how SCD impacts romantic relationships for men in the UK. Seven men aged between 20-39 were recruited to share their views and experiences. Thematic Analysis was employed to analyse the data.
Three interconnected themes were developed: ‘societal and cultural norms concerning romantic relationships’, ‘lack of awareness and understanding, misconceptions and stigma around SCD’, and ‘disclosing SCD within a romantic relationship’. Within these themes, topics around reproductive decisions,
masculinity, sexual relationships, being a burden, and adapting and acceptance of SCD, were discussed.
Conclusions and Implications:
SCD impacts men’s romantic relationships in a host of areas. Supporting men with these difficulties may include change at individual level, for instance healthcare professionals using a holistic approach, including psychological therapy to support these men. In addition, broader/societal level approaches such as increasing awareness, knowledge and understanding around SCD, in order to reduce the detrimental effects felt by these men, and enabling them to live more fulfilling and satisfying lives.