Analysing people with head and neck cancers’ use of online support groups

Abstract

Online support groups have become a familiar source of social support for people with a variety of health issues. To date, no research has investigated the use of such groups by people with head and neck cancer (H&N). The aim of this study was to assess the types of social support, both sought and offered, within online support groups (OSGs) for head and neck cancer. Data was collected from 18 OSGs and two coding schemes; the Social Support Behaviour Code and the scheme of Coursaris & Liu (2009), were used to analyse the content of support-seeking and support-offering messages. The results suggested that the most frequently offered types of social support by group members were informational (43.4%) and emotional (32.4%), followed by esteem (15.6%) and network support (6.1%), whereas little tangible assistance was offered (2.4%). The content of support-seeking messages included group members sharing personal experience (31.5%), with the most frequent sought support being informational support (25.5%). The OSGs can be advantageous to people with H&N cancer, especially for those with appearance or speech problems to mitigate their embarrassment and facilitate interaction with others. The present findings suggest that such OSGs can be promising sources of H&N cancer-related informational and emotional support for the recipients, whether they are patients, family members or carers.

Bibliographic citation

Algtewi, E. E., Owens, J., & Baker, S. R. (2015). Analysing people with head and neck cancers’ use of online support groups. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 9(4), Article 6. doi:https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2015-4-6

Keywords

Online support groups; head cancer; neck cancer; social support

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