Social support can affect how people with diabetes think, feel and act

An ACBRD study published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice explores the relationship between social support and self-care.

By Anneta Jayantha

Research shows many benefits of social support for people with diabetes. For example, it can increase confidence in managing diabetes (self-efficacy), lower diabetes-related distress and improve diabetes self-care. In other words, social support affects how people think, feel and act.

Dr Carina Chan has led a study to understand the relationship between social support and diabetes self-care. Researchers were interested in whether self-efficacy and distress play a role in this relationship.

This study used data from the Diabetes MILES-2 survey. It included 1,727 Australian adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They completed the Diabetes Social Support scale, measuring emotional support, advice and information received. Volunteers also completed questionnaires about diabetes self-efficacy, diabetes distress and self-care. Self-care outcomes included diet, physical activity, blood glucose checking, and HbA1c.

Overall, the study found that greater social support was associated with:

  • more optimal self-care.
  • higher diabetes self-efficacy.
  • less diabetes distress. 

Diabetes social support was related to diabetes self-efficacy. In turn, this accounted for variations in healthy eating, physical activity and glucose monitoring. Diabetes distress explained the relationship between social support and glucose monitoring and HbA1c.

This study highlights the potential positive effects of social support for people with diabetes. However, it is limited by the cross-sectional data. Future research needs to explore the impact of social support over time, and the role of different types and sources of social support. For example, is the impact of social support different depending on who provides the support? 

To read more findings from the MILES-2 study click here.

Reference: Chan CK, Cockshaw W, Smith K, Holmes-Truscott E, Pouwer F, Speight J. Social support and self-care outcomes in adults with diabetes: The mediating effects of self-efficacy and diabetes distress. Results of the second diabetes MILES–Australia (MILES-2) study. Diabetes research and clinical practice. 2020 Aug 1;166:108314.

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