Coping with somatic illnesses in online support groups: do the feared disadvantages actually occur?

C.F. Kraan, C.H.C. Drossaert, E. Taal, C.E.I. Lebrun, K.W. Drossaers-Bakker, W.M. Smit, E.R. Seydel, M.A.F.J. van de Laar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic

66 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

People in stressful circumstances, such as serious health conditions, often turn to support groups. With the increase in the availability and popularity of the Internet, the possibility has arisen to join support groups online. Various authors have raised potential disadvantages of these groups, such as the lack of control of the quality of the information that is exchanged and the concern that the exchange within the group might include socially inappropriate remarks. In this study we explored to what extent these potential disadvantages actually occur. In addition, we explored who uses Dutch online support groups and what is exchanged by the participants. By means of “content analysis” we analyzed a random sample of 1500 messages from publicly available online support groups for patients with breast cancer, arthritis and fibromyalgia. It appeared that the online support groups under study were mainly used by female patients. A major part of the postings contained “off topic” remarks. Popular health related topics were “restrictions in daily life” and “regular medication”. Only in a minor proportion of the postings, potential disadvantages were present. Therefore this study suggests that online support groups are a viable option for support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-324
JournalComputers in human behavior
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords

  • Support groups
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Breast cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Internet
  • Content analysis

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