Social networks and type 2 diabetes: a narrative review.

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It has been known for decades that social networks are causally related to disease and mortality risk. However, this field of research and its potential for implementation into diabetes care is still in its infancy. In this narrative review, we aim to address the state-of-the-art of social network research in type 2 diabetes prevention and care. Despite the diverse nature and heterogeneity of social network assessments, we can draw valuable lessons from the available studies. First, the structural network variable ‘living alone’ and the functional network variable ‘lack of social support’ have been associated with increased type 2 diabetes risk. The latter association may be modified by lifestyle risk factors, such as obesity, low level of physical activity and unhealthy diet. Second, smaller network size and less social support is associated with increased risk of diabetes complications, particularly chronic kidney disease and CHD. Third, current evidence shows a beneficial impact of social support on diabetes self-management. In addition, social support interventions were found to have a small, favourable effect on HbA1c values in the short-term. However, harmonisation and more detailed assessment of social network measurements are needed to utilise social network characteristics for more effective prevention and disease management in type 2 diabetes.

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Authors: Miranda T Schram, Willem J J Assendelft, Theo G van Tilburg, Nicole H T M Dukers-Muijrers