Understanding Online and Offline Social Networks in the Disease Management of Elderly Patients with Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Mixed Methods Study Using Quantitative Social Network Assessment and Qualitative Analysis


Form JMIR Res. 2022 May 17;6(5):e35244. doi: 10.2196/35244.


Background: Individuals’ social networks and social support are fundamental determinants of self-management and self-efficacy. In chronic respiratory conditions, social support can be promoted and optimized to facilitate self-management of breathlessness.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to determine how online and offline social networks play a role in the health management of elderly patients with chronic respiratory diseases, to explore the role of online peer support in patient self-management and understand the barriers and potential benefits of digital social interventions.

METHODS: We recruited participants from a hospital-run singing group at a workshop in London, UK, and adapted PERSNET, a quantitative social network assessment tool. The second workshop has been replaced by telephone interviews due to the confinement due to COVID-19. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: A total of 7 participants (2/7, 29% male and 5/7, 71% female), ages 64-81, produced network maps comprising between 5 and 10 individuals, including the family. members, healthcare professionals, colleagues, activity groups, offline and online friends and peers. The visual maps facilitated reflections and improved participants’ understanding of the role of offline and online social networks in the management of chronic respiratory diseases. He also highlighted the work undertaken by the networks themselves in supporting self-management. Participants with small, tight-knit networks received physical, health, and emotional support, while those with more diverse and larger networks benefited from access to alternative and complementary sources of information. Participants in the latter type of network tended to communicate more openly and comfortably about their disease, share the impact of their disease on their daily lives, and demonstrate distinct traits in terms of identity and perception of chronic disease. . Participants described the potential benefits of expanding their networks to include online peers as sources of new information, motivation, and access to supportive environments. Lack of technology skills, fear of being scammed, or preference to keep illness-related issues to themselves and their immediate family were reported by some as barriers to engagement with support. online peers.

CONCLUSIONS: In this small-scale study, the social network assessment tool was found to be feasible and acceptable. These data show the value of using a social network tool as a research tool that can help assess and understand network structure and engagement in self-management support and could be developed into an intervention. to support self-management. Patients’ preferences to share their illness experiences with their peers online, as well as the contexts in which this may be acceptable, must be considered when developing and delivering digital social interventions. Future studies can explore the changing social networks of older adults with chronic conditions to understand whether their willingness to engage with peers online may change over time.

PMID:35579933 | DO I:10.2196/35244


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