Posted Sep 10 , 2018 02:15 AM

Social Network Characteristics Are Associated with Type 2 Diabetes Complications: The Maastricht Study

Brinkhues S, et al. Diabetes Care 2018_Online June 15th

What were the findings (excerpted from the Abstract)?

The relation between clinical complications and social network characteristics in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) has hardly been studied. Therefore, the authors examined the associations of social network characteristics with macro- and microvascular complications in T2DM and investigated whether these associations were independent of glycemic control, quality of life, and well-known cardiovascular risk factors. Participants with T2DM originated from the Maastricht Study, a population-based cohort study (n = 797, mean age 62.7 ± 7.6 years, 31% female). Social network characteristics were assessed through a name generator questionnaire. Diabetes status was determined by an oral glucose tolerance test. Macro- and microvascular complications. Macrovascular complications were defined as a self-reported history of myocardial infarction, and/or cerebrovascular infarction or hemorrhage, and/or percutaneous artery angioplasty of the coronary arteries, abdominal arteries, peripheral arteries, or carotid artery, and/or vascular surgery on the coronary, abdominal, peripheral, or carotid arteries. Microvascular complications were defined as the presence of diabetic retinopathy and/or impaired vibratory sense and/or albuminuria. The authors assessed cross-sectional associations of social network characteristics with macro- and microvascular complications by use of logistic regression adjusted for age, HbA1c, quality of life, and cardiovascular risk factors, stratified for sex. A smaller network size, higher percentages of family members, and lower percentages of friends were independently associated with macrovascular complications in both men and women. A smaller network size and less informational support were independently associated with microvascular complications in women, but not in men.

Why is this important?

This study shows that social network characteristics were associated with macro- and microvascular complications. Health care professionals should be aware of the association of the social network with T2DM outcomes. In the development of strategies to reduce the burden of disease, social network characteristics should be taken into account. Higher levels of social support have been associated with lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, better glycemic control, and improved lifestyle behaviors. Smaller network size, has been associated with the prevalence of T2DM. In the general population, a smaller network has also been associated with a higher incidence of stroke and mortality. Social networks were defined as person contacts for various types of support. While the study results are important, it remains to be seen whether social media networks have the same impact as interpersonal interactions outside of social media.

Read the Abstract: