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J Health Commun. 2008 Oct-Nov;13(7):698-714. doi: 10.1080/10810730802415316.

Health-related on-line forums: what's the big attraction?

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VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


This study investigates what motivates people to make use of health-related online forums, and how people feel that using these forums helps them in coping with their situation. Results are based on an online questionnaire (N = 189) among users of a variety of health forums. Findings show an overall positive effect of using forums on the degree to which people are better able to cope with the situation they are facing, both socially and with their condition. This especially holds for people who find forums a convenient tool for inclusion or gathering information. A negative effect on coping, however, is found for people who primarily use forums for discussion. The study also shows that features that often are mentioned in literature on computer-mediated communication (i.e., the anonymity it affords, its text-based character, and the possibility it offers for network expansion) are recognized but appreciated differently by users. Users who feel stigmatized especially appreciate the anonymity of online forums, while people who are restricted in their mobility appreciate the possibilities for network expansion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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