Receiving social support online: an analysis of a computer-mediated support group for individuals living with irritable bowel syndrome

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2005 Dec;8(6):580-4. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2005.8.580.


In recent years, the rapid expansion in Internet access and computer-mediated communication has fostered new opportunities for individuals with health-related concerns to participate in supportive communication within a network of individuals dealing with similar issues. The aim of this study was to examine the nature of socially supportive communication that took place within a computer-mediated support network for individuals affected by irritable bowel syndrome. Using deductive thematic analysis, 572 posted messages were examined with reference to five main categories of social support (i.e., emotional, esteem, information, network, and tangible assistance). The analysis suggests that the primary function of this group was the communication of informational support, notably within the areas of symptom interpretation, illness management, and interaction with health care professionals.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Self Concept
  • Self-Help Groups*
  • Social Support*