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Online Support Groups, Advantages and Disadvantages of

  • By: Kevin B. Wright
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Social support researchers have become increasingly interested in the capabilities of online support groups for supplementing (and sometimes replacing) traditional face-to-face social support networks. Communication scholars and other social scientists have begun to examine the implications of participating in online support groups in terms of their impact on the process of how and why individuals obtain online support, advantages and disadvantages of computer-mediated support, and the relationship between online support and health-related outcomes (i.e., reductions in physical symptoms, stress, and depression, among others).

Social support is an umbrella term that includes informational support, emotional support, tangible support, and validation. Social support researchers have gathered substantial empirical evidence that social support is an important mediator of stress. There are several theoretical explanations for the relationship between ...

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