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Breast cancer, Depressive symptoms, Online participation, Online support





The purposes of this study were to evaluate the effects of different formats of online group support (moderated vs peer-led) on depressive symptoms and extent of participation in women with breast cancer. A randomized longitudinal design was used to address the study aims. The setting was a secure password-protected Web page. Fifty women with breast cancer, at least 21 years old, who had Internet access participated. Subjects were randomly assigned to moderated or peer-led groups, given a password, and instructed to complete the study questionnaires at baseline and again at 6, 12, and 16 weeks. The independent variables were types of online support (moderated or peer-led), and the dependent variables were depressive symptoms and extent of participation. There were no significant differences in depressive symptoms by group or by extent of group participation. Moderated groups read and posted significantly more messages than did peer-led groups. This study adds to the research base on different group formats for online support and the extent of participation and nonparticipation (lurking) in online groups. It provides a springboard for additional studies that include ethnic minorities, people with different types of cancer, and men.