Challenging the Internet Paradox: Online Depression Communities and Well-Being

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Abstract

This cross-sectional study aimed to explore the association between the intensity of participation in online depression communities and the benefits users gain from participation. The study was based on an online survey of 631 users in 16 English language-based online depression communities. Results indicated that there were several differences between heavy, medium and light users with regard to their participation patterns, but they did not differ in their background characteristics and hardly varied in their interests. There were also no differences between the groups in their level of depression. However, there were many significant differences in perceived benefits gained, which demonstrated that heavy users reported receiving emotional support online and experiencing offline improvement more than medium and light users, and medium users reported these benefits more than light users. These findings suggest that contrary to some previous arguments regarding possible adverse consequences of intensive Internet use, heavy use of online depression communities is associated with positive results. Thus, it may even contribute to the general well-being of people with depression. Future research of the various associations between Internet use and psychological well-being should examine specific online activities, and explore diverse audiences including disadvantaged populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-48
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Internet Science
Volume8
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

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