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  1. Malik, Sumaira PhD
  2. Coulson, Neil S. PhD


The Internet has provided new opportunities for young people with inflammatory bowel disease to access diverse information and support, and communicate with fellow sufferers through the means of online patient support groups. The study presented in this article is the first to examine communication processes in an online support group for young people with inflammatory bowel disease. The purpose of the study was to examine the frequency and use of self-help mechanisms in communication within the online group. Content analysis was performed on a sample of 1,505 messages posted to the online support group. Results revealed that similar to face-to-face support groups, the online group offered patients the opportunity to utilize a variety of self-help mechanisms. Specifically, the group seemed to provide a unique avenue through which participants could connect with other young people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease and share personal experiences and information related to their condition. These findings suggest that online support groups may provide a novel and beneficial medium through which young people with inflammatory bowel disease can fulfill their support needs, and those involved in their care, such as nurses, may play an important role in discussing the advantages or disadvantages of this increasingly popular form of support. Further research is needed to examine the psychosocial effects of accessing such groups.