Emotional coping differences among breast cancer patients from an online support group: A cross-sectional study
SourceJournal of Medical Internet Research, 16, 2, (2014), pp. e28
Article / Letter to editor
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Communicatie- en informatiewetenschappen
Communicatie- en Informatiewetenschappen
Journal of Medical Internet Research
SubjectLanguage in Society; Persuasive Communication
Background: Due to mixed findings in research on the effect of online peer-to-peer support on psychological well-being, there is a need for studies explaining why and when online support communities are beneficial for cancer patients. Objective: Previous studies have typically not taken into account individual coping differences, despite the fact that patients have different strategies to cope with cancer-related emotions. In the current study, it was predicted that the effects of online support group participation would partly depend on patients' ability to cope with thoughts and emotions regarding the illness. Methods: For this study, 184 Dutch breast cancer patients filled out a questionnaire assessing activity within a peer-led online support community, coping with emotions and thoughts regarding the illness (cognitive avoidance, emotional processing, and expression) and psychological well-being (depression, breast cancer-related concerns, and emotional well-being). Of these, 163 patients were visiting an online peer-led support community. Results: Results showed interactions of the intensity of support group participation and coping style on psychological well-being. Specifically, we found an interaction of online activity and emotional expression on depression (beta=–.17, P=.030), a marginally significant interaction of online activity and emotional expression on emotional well-being (beta=.14, P=.089), and an interaction of online activity and cognitive avoidance on breast cancer–related concerns (beta=.15, P=.027). For patients who actively dealt with their emotions and thoughts, active online support group participation was positively related to psychological well-being. For patients high on avoidance of illness-related thoughts or low on emotional expression, active participation was negatively related to measures of well-being. Conclusions: The current study revealed the role of individual differences in coping in online support group participation. Results suggest that breast cancer patients' ability to cope with emotions and thoughts regarding the illness influence the relationship between online support group participation and psychological well-being.
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