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Chronic Illn. 2011 Mar;7(1):60-86. doi: 10.1177/1742395310383338. Epub 2010 Oct 4.

Social networks, social capital and chronic illness self-management: a realist review.

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Health Sciences Research Group-Primary Care, School of Community Based Medicine, University of Manchester, UK.

Erratum in

  • Chronic Illn. 2011 Mar;7(1):99.



Existing literature on the design of interventions and health policy about self-management have tended to focus on individual-centred definitions of self-care and there is growing recognition of the need to extend consideration beyond individual factors, which determine self-care, to examine wider influences such as the health service, the family and the wider social context.


To explore the theoretical and empirical links between social networks, social capital and the self-care practices associated with chronic illness work and management in the context of people's everyday lives.


A realist review method was used to search and appraise relevant quantitative and qualitative literature.


The review findings indicate that social networks play an important part in the management of long-term conditions. We found that social networks tend to be defined narrowly and are primarily used as a way of acknowledging the significance of context. There is insufficient discussion in the literature of the specific types of networks that support or undermine self-care as well as an understanding of the processes involved. This necessitates shifting the emphasis of self-care towards community and network-centred approaches, which may also prove more appropriate for engaging people in socially and economically deprived contexts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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