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Health Commun. 2008;23(1):1-12. doi: 10.1080/10410230701697100.

Online participation: a content analysis of differences in utilization of two online cancer communities by men and women, patients and family members.

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  • 1Department of Communication & Journalism, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001, USA.


The Internet provides a new modality for health communication by facilitating the creation of virtual communities. These communities have the potential to influence health behavior beyond traditional FTF support groups. This study utilized content analysis of 1,424 e-mail messages posted to 2 online cancer communities to examine uses of these groups. Findings revealed (a) similarities in the content of communication in the 2 virtual communities, (b) gender differences in participation, and (c) differences in utilization of these online groups between patients and family members. These results are discussed in light of the diverse uses of online cancer communities that they reveal, the role of family members in support seeking and provision, and gender communication styles in health computer-mediated communication.

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