Social support networks and eating disorders: an integrative review of the literature
Carolina Leonidas, Manoel Antônio dos Santos
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Aims: This study aimed to analyze the scientific literature about social networks and social support in eating disorders (ED).
Methods: By combining keywords, an integrative review was performed. It included publications from 2006–2013, retrieved from the MEDLINE, LILACS, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases. The selection of articles was based on preestablished inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Results: A total of 24 articles were selected for data extraction. There was a predominance of studies that used nonexperimental and descriptive designs, and which were published in international journals. This review provided evidence of the fact that fully consolidated literature regarding social support and social networks in patients with ED is not available, given the small number of studies dedicated to the subject. We identified evidence that the family social network of patients with ED has been widely explored by the literature, although there is a lack of studies about other networks and sources of social support outside the family.
Conclusion: The evidence presented in this study shows the need to include other social networks in health care. This expansion beyond family networks would include significant others – such as friends, colleagues, neighbors, people from religious groups, among others – who could help the individual coping with the disorder. The study also highlights the need for future research on this topic, as well as a need for greater investment in publications on the various dimensions of social support and social networks.
Keywords: eating disorders, social networks, social support, family relations, peer relations
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