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Helping you to help me: Exploring Supportive Interaction in Online Health Community

Katherine Chuang and Christopher Yang

(Submission #140)


People are able to express support for each other through online support groups by communicating their feelings and exchanging personalized information. This ability enables patients to connect with each other to build their own sense of community filled with healthy, supportive relationships. This paper reports a comparison of levels of social support types (informational, nurturant, and instrumental) among three different types of computer-mediated communication tools (forum, journals, and notes) from an online alcoholism support community. Findings show that people use each communication tool for different purposes, which can be associated with the inherent design characteristics. Forums were used for exchanging information, whereas journals and notes were used for exchanging nurturant support. We suggest that this difference may be explained by the perceived levels of social support for each communication tool. These results can prove useful to health professionals in the development of social support systems for their patients that encourage health behavior change.


Program Track:  Track 6 - Information and Society: Economic, Political, Social Issues
Submission Type:  Research Paper

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