Type 2 Diabetes Education and Support in a Virtual Environment: A Secondary Analysis of Synchronously Exchanged Social Interaction and Support.
BACKGROUND:Virtual environments (VEs) facilitate interaction and support among individuals with chronic illness, yet the characteristics of these VE interactions remain unknown. OBJECTIVE:The objective of this study was to describe social interaction and support among individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D) who interacted in a VE. METHODS:Data included VE-mediated synchronous conversations and text-chat and asynchronous emails and discussion board posts from a study that facilitated interaction among individuals with T2D and diabetes educators (N=24) in 2 types of sessions: education and support. RESULTS:VE interactions consisted of communication techniques (how individuals interact in the VE), expressions of self-management (T2D-related topics), depth (personalization of topics), and breadth (number of topics discussed). Individuals exchanged support more often in the education (723/1170, 61.79%) than in the support (406/1170, 34.70%) sessions or outside session time (41/1170, 3.50%). Of all support exchanges, 535/1170 (45.73%) were informational, 377/1170 (32.22%) were emotional, 217/1170 (18.55%) were appraisal, and 41/1170 (3.50%) were instrumental. When comparing session types, education sessions predominately provided informational support (357/723, 49.4%), and the support sessions predominately provided emotional (159/406, 39.2%) and informational (159/406, 39.2%) support. CONCLUSIONS:VE-mediated interactions resemble those in face-to-face environments, as individuals in VEs engage in bidirectional exchanges with others to obtain self-management education and support. Similar to face-to-face environments, individuals in the VE revealed personal information, sought information, and exchanged support during the moderated education sessions and unstructured support sessions. With this versatility, VEs are able to contribute substantially to support for those with diabetes and, very likely, other chronic diseases.
Lewinski, AA; Anderson, RA; Vorderstrasse, AA; Fisher, EB; Pan, W; Johnson, CM
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