Understanding social forces involved in diabetes outcomes: A systems science approach to quality-of-life research

David W. Lounsbury, Gary B. Hirsch, Chawntel Vega, Carolyn E. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Purpose: The field of quality-of-life (QOL) research would benefit from learning about and integrating systems science approaches that model how social forces interact dynamically with health and affect the course of chronic illnesses. Our purpose is to describe the systems science mindset and to illustrate the utility of a system dynamics approach to promoting QOL research in chronic disease, using diabetes as an example. Methods: We build a series of causal loop diagrams incrementally, introducing new variables and their dynamic relationships at each stage. Results: These causal loop diagrams demonstrate how a common set of relationships among these variables can generate different disease and QOL trajectories for people with diabetes and also lead to a consideration of non-clinical (psychosocial and behavioral) factors that can have implications for program design and policy formulation. Conclusions: The policy implications of the causal loop diagrams are discussed, and empirical next steps to validate the diagrams and quantify the relationships are described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-969
Number of pages11
JournalQuality of Life Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Cognitive reserve
  • Health
  • Health disparities
  • Policy
  • Psychosocial
  • Quality of life
  • System science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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