Online Depression Communities: Does Gender Matter?

Vol.6,No.1(2012)

Abstract
While women are at a greater risk for depression, men with depression are at a greater risk for mistimed and inadequate treatment. Online depression communities offer immediate support for both genders, and may reduce the risk for those depressed men who avoid the traditional mental healthcare system. This study aimed to explore gender differences among members of online depression communities. Based on an online survey of 793 members of 16 online depression communities, the study combined both behavioral and psychological measures. The results identified significant gender differences in members’ self-defined condition, participation patterns, interests and reported benefits. Additional differences were found in the associations between the main differentiating variables and the members’ level of depression. The findings indicated that women in online depression communities are more involved and report more benefits from participation than men. However, active participation may be even more beneficial for men than for women, as it may provide positive change not only in their general sense of well-being, but also in their clinical condition. Using strategies for promoting active participation among men may enhance the benefits they gain from the online communities.

Keywords:
online support groups; mental illness; coping; well-being
Author biography

Galit Nimrod

Author photo Galit Nimrod, Ph.D., Fulbright scholar, is a senior lecturer at the Department of Communication Studies and a research fellow at the Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Aging at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. The nature of her research is theoretical, cross-cultural, and inter-disciplinary. It combines knowledge and methods from various fields including communication studies, leisure studies and gerontology. Her current research focuses on the functions of new media for individuals with special needs such as older adults and people with disabilities.
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