Relationship Between Social Network, Social Support and Health Behaviour in People With Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Cross-Sectional Studies

Nana F. Hempler; Lene E. Joensen; Ingrid Willaing


BMC Public Health. 2016;16(198) 

In This Article


Social networks and good social support are associated with better functioning, fewer psychosocial problems and improved diabetes self-management in people with diabetes.[1–6] Physical activity and healthy diet are recommended components of diabetes management in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.[7–10] Social support has been shown to be positively related to health behavioural change in chronic illness management, particularly in the field of diabetes.[1] While few studies shed light on differences between people with type 2 diabetes and the general population with regards to health behaviour and social relations (social support and social network contacts), little attention has been paid to possible differences between adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.[11,12]

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes differ substantially in relation to pathogenesis, symptoms, onset, cause of condition, treatment, complications, prognosis, etc. Diagnosis of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is expected to entail major changes in daily life and may affect social life in different ways. Type 2 diabetes often occurs later in adult life, so managing diabetes with respect to social life and changing health behaviour might be different for adults with type 2 diabetes compared with people with type 1 diabetes, where a strict care routine may have been introduced from a young age.

A more nuanced picture of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes is required regarding possible differences in health behaviours and the impact of social relations on health behaviours. Moreover, the role of education level is an important component to consider when comparing social relations and health behaviours by diabetes type, as a poor social network and low social support are also more prevalent among people with low education compared to people with high education.[13–15] Studies have shown a similar pattern with regards to physical activity and dietary habits.[16–18]

Many support initiatives and interventions focusing on behavioural and psychosocial aspects of diabetes do not differentiate by diabetes type.[19,20] Insights into differences in social relations and health behaviour according to diabetes type are likely to be valuable for tailoring interventions and diabetes care. The purpose of this study is to: 1) compare social relations (cohabitation status, contacts with family, contacts with friends, perceived support from the social network) and health behaviours (diet and physical activity) of people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes; and 2) to explore to what extent associations between health behaviour and diabetes type are influenced by social relations and education level.