The diabetes online community: Older adults supporting self-care through peer health

Patient Educ Couns. 2018 Mar;101(3):518-523. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2017.08.023. Epub 2017 Sep 6.


Objective: The use of the diabetes online community (DOC) is growing across all age groups. The aim of this exploratory study was to describe why older adults participated in the DOC, and how DOC users interacted with their healthcare providers.

Methods: Telephone interviews (N=20) were conducted with older adult DOC users (born between 1946 and 1964) living in the United States. Interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis adhering to rigor and reproducibility standards.

Results: Themes that emerged from the data related to DOC participation included: information to improve self-care, emotional support, belonging to a community, validation of information, cause for concern and interaction with healthcare providers. Participants used the DOC for day to day diabetes management advice and healthcare providers for medical information and care.

Conclusion: Participants highly valued the DOC and regarded their participation as a way to increase knowledge to improve self-care and reciprocate emotional support with others for diabetes management. The DOC filled gaps in knowledge and support participants were not able to get elsewhere.

Practice implications: The DOC serves as an important source of information and support for individuals with diabetes and may be a cost-effective strategy to augment standard diabetes care.

Keywords: Diabetes; Diabetes online community; Older adults; Patient engagement; Peer health; Social media; e-Patient; eHealth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation*
  • Peer Group*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Care*
  • Social Media
  • Social Support*
  • Telemedicine*
  • Telephone