The role of online support communities: benefits of expanded social networks to patients with psoriasis.Arch Dermatol 2009; 145(1):46-51AD
To determine the demographics, usage patterns, attitudes, and experiences of online support site users.
Online survey. Patients A total of 260 subjects recruited from 5 online psoriasis support groups.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
An exploratory analysis was performed to determine demographic and disease characteristics of online support site users. Perceived benefits were also documented.
The mean (SD) age of respondents was 40.1 (11.5) years (range, 18-75 years), most (75.7%) were white, female (60.4%), and college educated (84.3%). Key factors associated with use of online support sites included availability of resources (95.3%), convenience (94.0%), access to good advice (91.0%), and the lack of embarrassment when dealing with personal issues (90.8%). The most common activities were posting messages (65.0%) and searching for information (63.1%). Nearly half of all respondents perceived improvements in their quality of life (49.5%) and psoriasis severity (41.0%) since joining the site. Intensity of participation in online support activities was associated with improved quality of life (P = .002), but not with improvements in psoriasis severity.
Our data demonstrate that psoriasis virtual communities offer users both a valuable educational resource and a source of psychological and social support. Such benefits could be further enhanced by physician engagement within these communities.