Social Media in the Diabetes Community: a Novel Way to Assess Psychosocial Needs in People with Diabetes and Their Caregivers

Tamara K. Oser, Sean M. Oser, Jessica A. Parascando, Danielle Hessler-Jones, Christopher N. Sciamanna, Kerri Sparling, Donald Nease, Michelle L. Litchman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Diabetes is a chronic disease that, regardless of type, requires intensive, ongoing self-management. As a result, people with diabetes (PWD) often have complex environmental, social, behavioral, and informational needs, many of which are unmet in healthcare settings and systems. To help meet these needs, many PWD interact with diabetes online communities (DOCs), including platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, to share real-life support, problems, and concerns with other PWD, offering a rich source of data on patient-reported outcomes. This article reviews recent psychosocial needs and outcomes identified by studies of DOCs and/or their users. Recent Findings: Participation in DOCs appears driven by a need for psychosocial support, unmet by providers and the healthcare system, as well as a sense of duty to provide it to others. The most common activities observed in DOCs are giving and receiving various types of support: psychosocial, technical, informational, and self-management. General and specific challenges (e.g., continuous glucose monitoring) as well as frustrations and worries associated with those challenges are commonly expressed, leading to reciprocal sharing, support, and encouragement, in a judgment-free manner, from other PWD. This leads users to feel more understood, empowered, validated, less alone, and more supported. Negative findings were reported very rarely and focused more on how other participants used social media rather than on the exchange of misplaced or dangerous information or advice. Summary: Diabetes online communities have grown from unmet needs for problem-solving and psychosocial support for living with a complex condition and from the availability of a new communications medium (i.e., social media). This has enabled communities of peers to both seek and receive support for living with diabetes, providing an important supplement to what is provided in healthcare settings and offering valuable information about what is most important to PWD and their families, with the potential to improve psychosocial care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
JournalCurrent diabetes reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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