Supportive Communication, SOVC & Health Outcomes

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Supportive Communication, SOVC & Health Outcomes in Online Infertility Groups presented at C&T 2009

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Supportive Communication, SOVC & Health Outcomes

  1. 1. Supportive Communication, SOVC and Health Outcomes in Online Infertility Groups Jennifer Welbourne, PhD University of Texas- Pan American Anita Blanchard, PhD and Marla Boughton, MA University of North Carolina Charlotte
  2. 2. Infertility and Virtual Health Communities  Significant, increasing number of couples who experience infertility  May lack traditional (FtF) support outlets  Virtual health communities can provide support
  3. 3. Advantages of Virtual Health Communities  No temporal & geographic boundaries  Increased heterogeneity of network  Increased comfort
  4. 4. Supportive Communication in Virtual Health Communities  Types of Supportive Communication  Emotional  Informational  Engaging in Supportive Communication  Actively providing support  Receiving support  Observing exchange of support
  5. 5. Psychosocial Benefits  Active Participation  Greater improvement in mood (Rodgers & Chen, 2005)  Enhanced well-being and decreased negative mood (Shaw et al, 2006)  Lower distress (Barak & Dolev-Cohen, 2006)  Receiving Messages  Lower levels of distress and stress (Barak & Dolev-Cohen, 2006; Wright, 2002)  Observing the Exchange of Support
  6. 6. Supportive Communication and Sense of Virtual Community  Members’ feelings of identity, belonging and attachment with others in their online group (Blanchard & Markus, 2004)  Social Exchange Theory (Goulder, 1960)  Hypothesis 1: Supportive communication is associated with stronger SOVC
  7. 7. SOVC and Health Outcomes  SOC in FtF community is related to  satisfaction with and commitment to the community (Burroughs & Eby, 1998)  active involvement in community activities and problem-focused coping behavior (McMillan & Chavis, 1986)  lower stress (Cowman et al, 2004; Ferrari et al, 2007)  improved well-being (Farrell et al, 2004)  increased quality of life (Kennett & Payne, 2005)  improved experiences (Ferrari et al, 2007)
  8. 8. SOVC and Health Outcomes  Hypothesis 2: Perceived stress is associated with more health symptoms  Hypothesis 3: SOVC is associated with fewer health symptoms  Hypothesis 4: SOVC moderates the relationship between stress and health symptoms
  9. 9. Method
  10. 10. Participants  N=122 women from 2 VCs  Age: 21-43 (M = 29) years.  Ethnicity: 97.5% Caucasian  Activity Levels:  regularly read messages (M = 5.0)  posted messages (M = 3.84)  started new threads (M = 3.09)
  11. 11. Procedure & Research Context  Procedure  online anonymous survey  link on message board  Research Context  Unique features of infertility groups
  12. 12. Measures  Supportive Communication (modified from Carver, Scheier, and Weintraub, 1989)  Emotional Support (8 items)  how often participants provided, received, and observed exchange of emotional support within VC  Informational Support (9 items)  how often participants provided, received, and observed exchange of informational support within VC
  13. 13. Measures  SOVC (18 items) (Blanchard, 2007)  Perceived Stress (14 items) (Cohen et al, 1983)  Health Symptoms (54 items) (Pennebaker, 1982)
  14. 14. Results and Discussion
  15. 15. Supportive Communication as Predictors of SOVC Model B S.E. β SOVC Providing Emotional Support .04 .11 .05 Providing Informational Support .14 .11 .20 Receiving Emotional Support .09 .11 .12 Receiving Informational Support .14 .11 .18 Observing Emotional Support .71 .25 .46** Observing Informational Support -.49 .23 -.34** Note. R2 = .35, * p < .05, ** p < .01.
  16. 16. SOVC and Stress as Predictors of Health Symptoms Model B S.E. β Step 1 SOVC -1.31 .78 -.15 Stress 2.50 .78 .28** Step 2 SOVC -1.61 .79 -.18* Stress 2.81 .79 .32** SOVC X Stress -1.71 .90 -.17t Note. Step 1: R =.10, p < .10, R Δ for Step 2 = .02, p = .06; t p = .06, * p < .05, ** p < .01.
  17. 17. Results: SOVC and Stress as Predictors of Health Symptoms SOVC 19 high low 18 17 Symptoms 16 15 14 13 12 low high Stress
  18. 18. Discussion  Observing the exchange of support in the VC associated with SOVC (Hypothesis 1)  Higher levels of stress associated with more physical health symptoms (Hypothesis 2)  SOVC was negatively related to health symptoms (Hypothesis 3)  Strong SOVC buffered the relationship between stress and health symptoms (Hypothesis 4)
  19. 19. Implications  Women dealing with infertility should be encouraged to seek online support groups  Administrators should facilitate  expressions of emotional support  members’ ability to see the exchange of support  Importance of SOVC in online health communities
  20. 20. Limitations  Inability to firmly establish causal direction  Self-report data  Homogeneous sample

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