What determines the quality of relationships in health-related online support groups?

Kevin Wright, Erik van Ingen

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The current study aims to explore the determinants of perceived quality of online relations (QOR) and interactions in a survey of online support community members consisting of individuals coping with stigmatized health conditions. The researchers draw upon previous research on online support groups, weak ties, willingness to communicate about health, and self-disclosure. Several hypotheses among these variables are advanced and tested using a structural equation model. The analyses show that the average quality of relations in these support groups is fairly high. Attitudinal similarity and the extent of writing messages (versus merely reading posts) are two important interactional factors that determine QOR. In addition, they explain the effects of the individual factors willingness to communicate, weak-tie preference, and gender. For instance, women are more likely to open up online, by writing more messages, and this explains why they end up in higher-quality interactions. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed as well as key limitations to the study and future directions for research in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Support and Health in the Digital Age
EditorsNichole Egberts, Kevin B. Wright
PublisherLexington Books
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781498595353
ISBN (Print)9781498595346
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameLexington Studies in Health Communication


  • social support
  • online communities
  • health


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