Seeking, sharing and co-creating: a systematic review of the relation between social support theory, social media use and chronic diseases

Abstract

The use of social media is increasing in the treatment and management of health. Patients with chronic diseases are especially interested in using these technologies to look for support, but organizations are lagging behind. The aim of this study is to explore the implications of applying social support theory to social media use in the field of chronic diseases. A systematic review was conducted in the Web of Science Core Collection database. Our analysis retrieved ten registers on initiatives around social support theory, social media, and chronic diseases. Despite the paucity of initiatives from this perspective, the studies included in this review offer some recommendations on how health-related organizations can improve patient-physician communication. Our findings suggest that social media can provide social support regularly, but institutions need to create safe environments addressed to specific diseases where physicians also take part in the community of the site. As patients have been in social media without physicians’ support for many years now, finding new ways of reducing the communicative gap between these two stakeholders is crucial. This review suggests that the application of social support theory could be one of the solutions, especially regarding chronic pain patients.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Department of Communication Studies of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV); the Department of Journalism and Media Studies of Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet); the ASTERISC Communication Research Group (URV); and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Media Research Group (OsloMet).

Funding

This work was supported by the Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR) (Grant No. 2018FI_B2 00132); and the URV-Repsol International Chair for Excellence in Communication.

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Correspondence to Anna Sendra.

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Sendra, A., Farré, J. & Vaagan, R.W. Seeking, sharing and co-creating: a systematic review of the relation between social support theory, social media use and chronic diseases. Soc Theory Health 18, 317–339 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41285-019-00106-z

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Keywords

  • Social support
  • Chronic disease
  • Social media
  • Health communication
  • Patients
  • Physicians