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Hospices, Internet, Online community, Social support





Social support is commonly thought to reduce negative health outcomes for patients and their family members, particularly when experiencing end-of-life issues. Although numerous people turn to hospice when dealing with end-of-life circumstances, many individuals do not have access to or may not be able to use hospice services. As an alternative to traditional hospice, individuals may seek social support in online hospice support communities. Although a large body of research focuses on individual disease/condition-specific communities, to date, online hospice support communities have remained unexplored. This investigation sought to describe how social support was provided within a publicly accessible, online hospice support community located within Yahoo! groups.


A content analysis was conducted on 443 messages from 4 months of posts in an online hospice community. During the sample period, 28 community members, ranging from hospice professionals to family members of hospice patients, posted messages. As optimal matching theory may predict, it was found that emotional support interactions were far more frequent than informational support exchanges. Overall, encouragement/support themes were the most common type of emotional support, and medication/treatment themes were the most common type of informational support.