Koetsenruijter J, Van-Lieshout J, Lionis C, Portillo MC, Vassilev I, Todorova E, et al. Social support and health in diabetes patients: an observational study in six european countries in an era of austerity. PLoS ONE 2015;10(8)
Support from individual social networks, community organizations and neighborhoods is associated with better self-management and health outcomes. This international study examined the relative impact of different types of support on health and health-related behaviors in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Observational study (using interviews and questionnaires) in a sample of 1,692 type 2 diabetes patients with 5,433 connections from Bulgaria, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Outcomes were patient-reported health status (SF-12), physical exercise (RAPA), diet and smoking (SDCSCA). Random coefficient regression models were used to examine linkages with individual networks, community organizations, and neighborhood type (deprived rural, deprived urban, or affluent urban).
Patients had a median of 3 support connections and 34.6% participated in community organizations. Controlled for patients’ age, sex, education, income and comorbidities, large emotional support networks were associated with decrease of non-smoking (OR = 0.87). Large practical support networks were associated with worse physical and mental health (B = -0.46 and -0.27 respectively) and less physical activity (OR = 0.90). Participation in community organizations was associated with better physical and mental health (B = 1.39 and 1.22, respectively) and, in patients with low income, with more physical activity (OR = 1.53).
Participation in community organizations was most consistently related to better health status. Many diabetes patients have individual support networks, but this study did not provide evidence to increase their size as a public health strategy. The consistent association between participation in community organizations and health status provides a clear target for interventions and policies.