[MOL] Internet fuels support group trend........ [01313] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] Internet fuels support group trend........

  FEBRUARY 29, 2000

Internet Fuels Support Group Trend

      People are no longer hestitant to openly discuss illnesses as the Internet helps fuel the self-help movement into a new realm.
      Online self-help groups are making it easier for people to talk about diseases once considered socially stigmatizing, according to a new report published in the February issue of American Psychologist, a journal of the American Psychological Association.
      A national team of researchers studied participation in national online discussion groups and in-person support groups in four major metropolitan areas: Chicago, Dallas, New York and Los Angeles. The groups were based around 20 disease categories. Self-help support groups were highest for diseases considered most stigmatizing, including alcoholism, AIDS, breast cancer and anorexia, and were lowest for illnesses considered less embarrassing but equally devastating, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines, ulcers and chronic pain. Dallas showed the lowest level of support groups while Chicago had the highest.
      Alcoholism had a low rate of self-help support online, while chronic fatigue syndrome had a very high online prevalence. Researchers say support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous have provided long-established in-person support, and online or virtual support may be deemed a weak substitute for recovering alcoholics. For persons suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, online support may be the best way to reach others with this illness.
      Researchers conclude that many Americans are trying to change their health behaviors through self-help support, whether online or in-person, rather than turning to programs created by professionals. "Group participants," researchers say, "may not be resistant to professional input; rather, they may need to speak and be heard about issues not addressed within the health-care setting."

Warmly, lillian
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