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BMJ Open. 2017 Oct 15;7(10):e017620. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017620.

Activation of professional and personal network relations when experiencing a symptom: a population-based cross-sectional study.

Author information

1
Research Unit of General Practice, Department of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, 5000 Odense C, Denmark.
2
Research Unit for General Practice, Department of Public Health, Danish Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care-CaP, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 2, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
3
Department of Anthropology, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Moesgaard Alle, 8270 Højbjerg, Denmark.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To describe patterns of disclosure of symptoms experienced among people in the general population to persons in their personal and/or professional network.

DESIGN:

A population-based cross-sectional study. Data were collected from a web-based survey.

SETTING:

The general population in Denmark.

PARTICIPANTS:

100 000 individuals randomly selected, representative of the adult Danish population aged ≥20 years were invited. Approximately 5% were not eligible for inclusion. 49 706 (men=23 240; women=26 466) of 95 253 eligible individuals completed the questionnaire; yielding a response rate of 52.2%. Individuals completing all questions regarding social network relations form the study base (n=44 313).

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES:

Activation of personal and/or professional relations when experiencing a symptom.

RESULTS:

The 44 313 individuals reported in total 260 079 symptom experiences within the last 4 weeks. No professional network relation was used in two-thirds of all reported symptoms. The general practitioner (GP) was the most frequently reported professional relation activated (22.5%). People reporting to have available personal relations were slightly less inclined to contact the GP (21.9%) when experiencing a symptom compared with people with no reported personal relations (26.8%). The most commonly activated personal relations were spouse/partner (56.4%) and friend (19.6%). More than a quarter of all reported symptom experiences was not shared with anyone, personal nor professional. The symptom experiences with the lowest frequency of network activation were symptoms such as black stool, constipation, change in stool texture and frequent urination.

CONCLUSION:

This study emphasises variation in the activation of network relations when experiencing a symptom. Symptoms were shared with both personal and professional relations, but different patterns of disclosures were discovered. For symptoms derived from the urogenital or colorectal region, the use of both personal and professional relations was relatively small, which might indicate reticence to involve other people when experiencing symptoms of that nature.

KEYWORDS:

help-seeking behaviour; primary health care; signs and symptoms; social network

PMID:
29038185
PMCID:
PMC5652579
DOI:
10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017620
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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