Collections > Master's Papers > School of Information and Library Science > Characteristics and benefits of Online Support Groups

This project sought affirmation of earlier findings of online disease-specific support groups. Support groups for Alzheimers, Breast Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, and Huntington's disease were studied. Literature suggests and this study agrees that group users are usually white, affluent, well-educated, and computer-savvy. The groups offer empathy, experiential knowledge, information, emotional nurturing, and a sense of control over disease. They are preferred over other support options. Altruistic behaviors are prevalent in groups - benefiting both giver and receiver. There is misinformation exchanged but it is quickly corrected. These groups improve the patient-physician relationship, fostering a team approach to disease, whereby patients receive a good education first, making more efficient use of their physician's limited time. However, most physicians do not suggest this alternative to patients. The project also investigated perceptions of privacy risk and whether real names are used in messages that may be archived and later retrieved from a personal computer.