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Ann Behav Med. 2006 Jun;31(3):271-8.

Hystersisters online: social support and social comparison among hysterectomy patients on the internet.

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Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, 52242, USA.



The Internet has become a popular source of health information for patients with a variety of medical concerns; however, research examining patient interactions on the Internet has been limited.


Four questions were examined in a survey study of hysterectomy patients who visited (a) Do hysterectomy patients use the support Web site because they perceive their proximal sources of social support to be inadequate? (b) What kinds of support do patients receive from the Web site? (c) What attributes characterize the "Hystersisters" that are perceived to be most helpful? (d) How do informational sources vary depending on the nature of the patient concern?


Women (N = 137) responded to questions about social support, Web site use, and perceptions of other Web site users.


Participants reported high levels of perceived support and tangible assistance from their proximal social environment during recovery from surgery (93%-100%). Hystersisters who were perceived as helpful tended to share similar attributes, such as religion and children. On the Web site, information and advice (61%) was sought significantly more than emotional or esteem support (p < .01). For issues involving spiritual or partner matters versus factual issues connected to the hysterectomy, patients expressed greater interest in communicating with a patient who shared their values even if they were not more knowledgeable.


This research contributes to our understanding of how patients utilize the Internet for health information. Longitudinal research is needed to evaluate causal relationships between Internet use and health outcomes.

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