Personal Network Analysis in the Study of Social Support: The Case of Chronic Pain
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In the context of chronic illness, the individual's social and relational environment plays a critical role as it can provide the informal support and care over time, beyond healthcare and social welfare institutions. Social Network Analysis represents an appropriate theoretical and methodological approach to study and understand social support since it provides measures of personal network structure, composition and functional content. The aim of this mixed method study is to present the usefulness of Personal Network Analysis to explore social support in the context of chronic pain. Personal and support network data of 30 people with chronic pain (20 alters for each ego, 600 relationships in total) were collected, obtaining measures of personal network structure and composition as well as information about social support characteristics. Also, semi-structured interviews with participants were conducted to identify the context of their experience of pain, their limitations as regards leading an autonomous life, their social support needs and other aspects concerning the effect of pain on their social and relational lives. This approach shows the importance of non-kin social support providers and the significant role of non-providers in the personal networks of people suffering chronic pain.
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