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Spousal Support Critical for Type 2 Diabetic Patients with Mental Illness

Researchers analyzing social networks found that type 2 diabetic patients with mental illness had smaller social networks…

Social support has been linked with successful adoption of lifestyle modifications for people with type 2 diabetes. Patients who suffer from type 2 diabetes and a mental disorder often have diminished social networks which can lead to an increased dependence on professional caregivers. People who suffer from a mental disorder often exhibit social distancing through social isolation.

Australian researchers compared the support provided by formal and informal networks for patients with type 2 diabetes and with a mental health condition. The study also focused on patients with a spouse and those without to evaluate the impact on their social network. The study included 25 participants, nine living with a significant other, 12 living alone, and 4 in some form of supported housing facilities. The participants were asked to map out the people and services who aid them in managing their health conditions. They completed this task by filling out an egocentric social network map.

The results showed that participants had small social networks. The total amount of social networks range from 4 to 14 and the mean was 8.65 social networks. The amount of networks decrease over time because of the participants’ mental condition. For participants with a spouse, their spouse provided support for chronic health condition. They completed daily care and illness task management for the participants.

Participants without a spouse relied more on professional paid care givers for daily care and illness management. They also exhibited a weaker social connection for emotional support and social ties. These participants often created a relationship with their caregiver.

This study demonstrated that people with type 2 diabetes and mental condition have smaller social networks. The lack of friendship connections contributed to social isolation and pursuing social connection through other sources.

Practice Pearls:

  • Patients with a spouse did not need a professional caregiver for daily care.
  • Patients that lacked a spouse relied on their professional caregiver for support.
  • Patients that lacked a spouse for has a weaker social connections which increase vulnerability for support.

Crotty MM, Henderson J, Ward PR, et al. “Analysis of social networks supporting the self-management of type 2 diabetes for people with mental illness.” BMC Health Serv Res. 2015;15:257.