Social Network Type and Long-Term Condition Management Support: A Cross-Sectional Study in Six European Countries.
Vassilev I., Rogers A., Kennedy A., Wensing M., Koetsenruijter J., Orlando R., Portillo MC., Culliford D.
BACKGROUND: Network types and characteristics have been linked to the capacity of inter-personal environments to mobilise and share resources. The aim of this paper is to examine personal network types in relation to long-term condition management in order to identify the properties of network types most likely to provide support for those with a long-term condition. METHOD: A cross-sectional observational survey of people with type 2 diabetes using interviews and questionnaires was conducted between April and October 2013 in six European countries: Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, Norway, United Kingdom, and Netherlands. 1862 people with predominantly lower socio-economic status were recruited from each country. We used k-means clustering analysis to derive the network types, and one-way analysis of variance and multivariate logistic regression analysis to explore the relationship between network type socio-economic characteristics, self-management monitoring and skills, well-being, and network member work. RESULTS: Five network types of people with long-term conditions were identified: restricted, minimal family, family, weak ties, and diverse. Restricted network types represented those with the poorest self-management skills and were associated with limited support from social network members. Restricted networks were associated with poor indicators across self-management capacity, network support, and well-being. Diverse networks were associated with more enhanced self-management skills amongst those with a long-term condition and high level of emotional support. It was the three network types which had a large number of network members (diverse, weak ties, and family) where healthcare utilisation was most likely to correspond to existing health needs. DISCUSSION: Our findings suggest that type of increased social involvement is linked to greater self-management capacity and potentially lower formal health care costs indicating that diverse networks constitute the optimal network type as a policy in terms of the design of LTCM interventions and building support for people with LTCs.