What are the benefits of social support for people affected by type 2 diabetes?

A new review examines social networks in type 2 diabetes prevention and care

By Dr Edith Holloway

Social networks are our relationships. These include relationships with our family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and health professionals. Research into the impact of social networks on health is quite new.

Associate Professor Miranda Schram and colleagues have published a review of research in Diabetologia. They looked at the links between social networks and type 2 diabetes.

Here is what they found:

Smaller social networks are a risk factor for type 2 diabetes

Living alone is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in men.

Having less social support may also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, this may depend on lifestyle factors like smoking, physical activity and diet.

Social networks may be associated with type 2 diabetes complications

Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes with smaller social networks and less support are more likely to develop diabetes complications, such as nerve and kidney damage. Women who have less access to information support (advice, suggestions, and material) are more likely to develop eye problems.

Social networks and diabetes management

Social support may help people with type 2 diabetes to better manage their condition. For example, studies show that both health professionals and peer-support can play a supportive role in ongoing diabetes management. These associations may be affected by lifestyle risk behaviours, such as obesity, lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet.

In conclusion, social support may play an important role in diabetes self-management and the prevention of type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related complications. Interventions that promote social networks may be useful for improving the health and well-being of people with type 2 diabetes.

To read more about social support, check out our other blogs here.

Schram MT, Assendelft WJJ, van Tilburg TG, Dukers-Muijrers NHTM. Social networks and type 2 diabetes: a narrative review. Diabetologia. 2021 Sep;64(9):1905-1916. doi: 10.1007/s00125-021-05496-2

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