Background: Effective diabetes peer support program planning and delivery has been limited by a lack of Australian data about what people want, need, and access. We addressed this gap by conducting a national survey of adults with diabetes about their perceptions and experiences of, and preferences for, peer support.
Methods: Eligible participants were Australian adults (aged 18-75) with type 1 (T1D) or type 2 diabetes (T2D). A random sample (N=20,000) of National Diabetes Services Scheme registrants was invited (via post) to participate, and the study was advertised in diabetes-related media. The survey was completed primarily online.
Results: 2,342 eligible respondents participated (46% T1D, 54% T2D). Of these, 11% were currently participating in diabetes peer support; 9% had participated in the past; 38% wanted to participate in the future. Respondents with T1D were more likely than those with T2D to be participating or interested in future participation (both p<0.001). Respondents with T1D most commonly accessed peer support online (51%); those with T2D most commonly accessed face-to-face support groups (44%). However, the preference across diabetes types, genders and ages was for online support.
Among those currently participating, most found it ‘enjoyable’ (64%) or ‘helpful’ (in connecting with healthcare, promoting self-management and emotional well-being; 66-69%), and they had higher perceived social support (Diabetes Support Scale) than non-participants (p<0.01). 8% reported their health professional was unsupportive of their participation in peer support. The most common reason for non-participation (both T1D and T2D) was the perception that there were no programs relevant to one’s diabetes type (collectively 27%).
Conclusions: These findings provide a road map for how to develop and deliver diabetes peer support in Australia. We recommend: (1)providing more online peer support; (2)increasing engagement among people with T2D; (3)improving awareness about and reach of existing programs; (4)improving awareness/understanding of peer support among health professionals.