Mutual support groups in rheumatic diseases: Effects and participants' perceptions




To investigate in a randomized controlled trial the effects of mutual support groups in rheumatic diseases on social network size, social skills, loneliness, daily functioning, and life satisfaction as well as to identify patients' perceptions of the support group.


Participants were 112 patients with chronic rheumatic disorders affecting the joints. Data were collected with self-report questionnaires and group interviews.


Effects have been found on social skills only. More specifically, mutual support groups at postintervention decreased distress in expressing negative feelings toward other people. This effect did not persist at the 6-month followup evaluation, but at that time an increase in frequency in making one's wishes known to others was found. In patients who attended at least 5 of all 10 sessions, an increase in expressing positive feelings toward others was found at followup. Mutual support groups were evaluated positively.


Mutual support groups are recommended for patients experiencing difficulties in social interactions.