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Gender differences in social support for diabetes self-management: a qualitative study among veterans

APA Citation:

Gray, K. E., Silvestrini, M., Ma, E. W., Nelson, K. M., Bastian, L. A., & Voils, C. I. (2023). Gender differences in social support for diabetes self-management: A qualitative study among veterans. Patient Education and Counseling, 107, Article 107578. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2022.107578

Abstract Created by REACH:

36 Veterans (n = 18 men; n = 18 women) over age 60 were interviewed with the goal of examining gender differences in the role of social support in Veterans’ diabetes self-management (e.g., taking medications). Participants were asked about their diabetes self-management, perceived social support, and their perspectives on a partner-assisted self-management program. 5 themes depicting these gender differences emerged, revealing disparities in the amount and type of social support received by men and women Veterans.


Physical health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:



Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)
Aged (65 yrs & older)


Qualitative Study


Gray, Kristen E., Silvestrini, Molly, Ma, Erica W., Nelson, Karin M., Bastian, Lori A., Voils, Corrine I.


Objective Describe the role of social support in veterans’ diabetes self-management and examine gender differences. Methods We conducted semi-structured interviews among veterans with diabetes from one Veterans Health Administration Health Care System. Participants described how support persons influenced their diabetes self-management and perspectives on a proposed self-management program incorporating a support person. We used thematic analysis to identify salient themes and examine gender differences. Results Among 18 women and 18 men, we identified four themes: 1) women felt responsible for their health and the care of others; 2) men shared responsibility for managing their diabetes, with support persons often attempting to correct behaviors (social control); 3) whereas both men and women described receiving instrumental and informational social support, primarily women described emotional support; and 4) some women’s self-management efforts were hindered by support persons. Regarding programs incorporating a support person, some participants endorsed including family/friends and some preferred programs including other individuals with diabetes. Conclusions Notable gender differences in social support for self-management were observed, with women assuming responsibility for their diabetes and their family’s needs and experiencing interpersonal barriers. Practice Implications Gender differences in the role of support persons in diabetes self-management should inform support-based self-management programs.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


diabetes, gender differences, self-management, social control, social support, veterans

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  April 2023

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