A sizable but controversial literature describes a direct relationship between high levels of social support and improved clinical outcomes in cancer patients. There is, however, limited data on social supports/networks among pts with cancer in Ireland.
Pts with a cancer diagnosis on active treatment or in follow-up in the South East Cancer Centre in Ireland were eligible. Pts completed a questionnaire which included: demographics, social networks measurement using the Berkman-Syme Social Networks Index (SNI) classifying pts into 4 categories (1 to 4), instrumental support using the tangible support component of the Medial Outcomes Study Social Support Survey (MOS-SS) and informational/online support incorporating questions on the availability and ability to use a computer with internet access, the use of the internet to seek cancer information/link with other patients. Subgroups studied included gender and age (≥70 and
188/237 pts completed the questionnaire (response rate 79%) with the following characteristics : female (n= 125, 67%), age ≥70 yrs ( n = 73, 39%). The commonest cancer was breast (n = 61, 38%) and 35% had education beyond second level. SNI was evaluable in 187 pts of whom 34 (18%) were socially isolated (SNI category 1). Men were more likely to have low social networks (SNI
Social isolation in this population was high at 18%, more commonly reported in male patients. While social media creates an opportunity to support isolated patients, only a third of older patients are computer/internet proficient in this population.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
University Hospital Waterford,Ireland
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.