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Keywords:

  • chronic health conditions;
  • rural;
  • telecommunication;
  • social support

Social support is a key factor in illness management. Despite the positive effects of support groups, there are barriers to participation by rural dwellers in face-to-face groups. To address these barriers, a computer-based support group intervention, the Women to Women Project, was designed to provide peer support and health information through a computer-based intervention. Data from three groups (intervention, information, comparison) of woman who participated in the program were analyzed. The pattern of improvement in social support was in the anticipated direction, but not significant in the main analysis. Exploratory analysis was conducted on a vulnerable subsample of women reporting low social support and high psychosocial distress. Results suggest that improvement in social support, based on the intervention, was greater for the vulnerable subsample as compared with the sample as a whole. An effective and efficient means of providing social support and facilitating the mobilization of this support is through self-help groups; this study demonstrates that virtual support groups can increase perceived social support.