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date: 18 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In recent years online support communities have increased in popularity and, for those digitally connected, provide a convenient and accessible means of reaching out to others facing similar health-related challenges. This chapter considers online support communities in terms of their popularity and the unique characteristics arising from the computer-mediated nature of the communication platform. It discusses both the range of possible benefits and problems to members. It presents a summary of evidence describing who engages with online support communities and why. It pays particular attention to describing what community members talk about online as well as patterns of communication in terms of therapeutic processes. Since the study of online support communities spans several disciplinary fields, the chapter also presents a selection of popular theoretical frameworks used by researchers. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of the outcomes arising from engagement with online support.

Keywords: online support community, forums, asynchronous communication, social support, self-help, social comparison, affordance theory, empowerment, psycho-social well-being, peer support

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