The role of online support groups in empowering individuals affected by prostate cancer
Campbell, Katarzyna (2013) The role of online support groups in empowering individuals affected by prostate cancer. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
The psychosocial challenges of living with prostate cancer have been well documented. Whilst information and support can help ameliorate these challenges, research points towards several barriers to obtaining support face-to-face. Recent research suggests that online support groups can help empower members to become active healthcare participants. Few studies, however, have examined the role of these groups in the context of prostate cancer. This research programme seeks to examine how, if at all, participation within prostate cancer online support groups empowers members. In Study 1, an analysis of 631 messages posted to prostate cancer online support groups was undertaken to explore the beneficial processes observed in members’ communication. In Study 2, open-ended surveys were employed to collect qualitative data from 147 members to explore their perception of empowering processes and outcomes within the groups. In Study 3, quantitative surveys (n=195) were employed to examine the extent to which members experience these processes and outcomes and the relationship between the two. The findings point towards the existence of several empowering processes, such as informational and emotional support exchange, encountering similar others and the ability to discuss sensitive issues. Empowering outcomes commonly experienced by the members included increased knowledge, the ability to participate in treatment-related decisions, an increased sense of community and enhanced communication with their medical practitioner. The processes significantly predicted the outcomes, with ‘information exchange’ consistently being the most significant predictor. This indicates that the processes, and particularly informational support in these groups, play an important role in empowering members. Although some negative processes have been identified, the positive aspects outweigh the negatives. These findings suggests that prostate cancer online support groups can be an effective and cost-efficient source of support and information for prostate cancer patients and their caregivers, and have a significant impact on their sense of empowerment.
Actions (Archive Staff Only)