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Authors

  1. MALIK, SUMAIRA H. PhD
  2. COULSON, NEIL S. PhD

Abstract

Current research shows that online support groups can offer people affected by infertility a unique and valuable source of social support. However, to date most research has focused on the experiences of people who post messages to online infertility support groups; in comparison, little is known about how "lurkers" (ie, those individuals who read messages but do not post messages) use and benefit from online infertility support groups. The purpose of the present study was to compare the use and experience of online infertility support groups between lurkers and posters. A total of 295 participants who were recruited from several online infertility support groups completed an online questionnaire containing questions about their use and experience of online support groups and measures of loneliness, social support, marital satisfaction, and perceived infertility-related stress. Differences between lurkers and posters were analyzed using Mann-Whitney U and [chi]2 or Fisher exact tests. Results revealed that compared with posters, lurkers visited the online support groups less often and scored significantly lower in overall satisfaction with the online support group. However, both lurkers and posters reported gaining a range of unique benefits from access to an online support group. Furthermore, there were no significant differences in loneliness, social support, infertility-related stress, and marital satisfaction between lurkers and posters. These findings suggest that reading messages posted to online support groups may be as beneficial as interacting with the group.