“Are you sure you’re going to have another one of those?”

ACBRD and colleagues in Sydney publish paper on perceptions of social control and social support relating to the self-management of type 2 diabetes

by Dr Adriana Ventura

Family and partners of those with type 2 diabetes (T2D) are often drawn into the self-management process. These close relationships can have both positive and negative impacts on the person’s self-management. Less is known about the influence of the wider social network (e.g. friends, work colleagues). Our aim was to explore the perceived impact of the immediate and wider social network on a person’s self-management of T2D.

A total of 25 adults with T2D were interviewed about the ‘social experience’ of living with T2D.  We used two frameworks for understanding the ways in which a social network can influence coping and behaviours: a) the health-related social control model (i.e. attempts to correct or improve self-management) and b) social support model (i.e. the provision of encouragement and positive feedback). Four main themes were identified, including two themes that were established a priori (i.e. social control and social support), and two themes that emerged from the data (i.e. non-involvement and unintentional undermining).

Perhaps surprisingly, social control wasn’t always perceived negatively, with some people feeling appreciative and accepting of the ‘controlling’ behaviour exerted by those in their social network. Others, however, felt that the controlling behaviour was intrusive and critical. Overall, most participant felt that their social network offered support in the form of practical assistance and/or emotional validation. ‘Non-involvement’ emerged as a new theme, and was the most prevalent overall.  While some preferred that their social network were not involved in their diabetes management, others perceived their diabetes to be unimportant to others and wished for more input. The second and least frequently occurring theme to emerge from the data was ‘unintentional undermining’. This referred to participants’ perceiving thoughtless but insensitive behaviours/remarks from the social network.

Although family members have the most significant influence on T2D management, this study shows that friends and work colleagues also play a role. Therefore, increasing awareness of diabetes self-management is important across all relevant social networks.

Newton-John TRO, Ventura AD, Mosely K, Browne JL, Speight J. ‘Are you sure you’re going to have another one of those?’: A qualitative analysis of the social control and social support models in type 2 diabetes. Journal of Health Psychology. 2017; 22(4), 1819-1829.