Use of Health-Related Online Support Groups: Population Data from the California Health Interview Survey Complementary and Alternative Medicine Study


  • Supported by the National Cancer Institute under grant no. 263-MQ-418286-1.

  • Address reprint requests to Jason E. Owen, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Psychology, 11130 Anderson St., Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350; email: Phone: (909) 558-7705. Fax: (909) 558-0171.


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of online support group (OSG) use by those with chronic health problems and to identify characteristics associated with use of OSGs and face-to-face groups. METHODS: 6, 795 Californians living with chronic health problems were asked to describe OSG use, face-to-face support group use, and frequency/perceived benefit of support group use. RESULTS: 16% had used a face-to-face group for health, and 1.8% reported having used an OSG. OSG use was associated with depression/anxiety (OR = 3.51), stroke (OR = 3.03), diabetes (OR = 2.96), cancer (OR = 2.86), and arthritis (OR = 2.52). Use of OSGs was also associated with greater education (OR = 12.2), higher income (OR = 3.1), use of complementary/alternative therapies (OR = 5.2), and worse health status (OR = 3.1). Those with asthma (OR = 0.4), over age 65 (OR = 0.2), and Latinos (OR = 0.2) were less likely to use OSGs. CONCLUSION: Prevalence of use of OSGs for those with chronic health conditions is low, but internet-based health-related services have potential to increase the reach of support services for those living with chronic conditions.