Online-Communities und Depression – ein Internet-Paradox

Photo by Pedro Figueiredo/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0

In der aktuellen Ausgabe des International Journal of Internet Science ist ein spannender Artikel erschienen, der sich mit Online-Communities zum Thema Depression beschäftigt und untersucht, inwiefern diese zum Wohlbefinden der Community-Teilnehmer beiträgt:

This cross-sectional study aimed to explore the association between the intensity of participation in online depression communities and the benefits users gain from participation. The study was based on an online survey of 631 users in 16 English language-based online depression communities. Results indicated that there were several differences between heavy, medium and light users with regard to their participation patterns, but they did not differ in their background characteristics and hardly varied in their interests. There were also no differences between the groups in their level of depression. However, there were many significant differences in perceived benefits gained, which demonstrated that heavy users reported receiving emotional support online and experiencing offline improvement more than medium and light users, and medium users reported these benefits more than light users. These findings suggest that contrary to some previous arguments regarding possible adverse consequences of intensive Internet use, heavy use of online depression communities is associated with positive results. Thus, it may even contribute to the general well-being of people with depression. Future research of the various associations between Internet use and psychological well-being should examine specific online activities, and explore diverse audiences including disadvantaged populations.

Wie schon im Abstract erwähnt, gibt es eine hohe Korrelation zwischen den Heavy-Community-Nutzern und der Verbesserung der Depression. Dies wird in der Zusammenfassung in der Studie nochmal herausgearbeitet:

The fact that the heavy users were not more depressed than medium and light users, but at the same time reported more improvement in their condition (e.g., more hope and better coping) suggests that had they not participated in the communities, they would have suffered a higher level of depression. This suggestion is in line with the findings of Houston and colleagues (2002), which demonstrated resolution of depression among heavy users. It may also find support in studies that indicated that social use of the Internet was associated with decreased depressive symptoms and anxiety (e.g., Morgan & Cotten, 2003; Selfhout et al., 2009). Moreover, the fact that the light users were more “veteran” than others but not less depressed and benefitted the least from participation, suggests that it is not the duration of use, but rather the intensity of it, that matters.

The current study demonstrates that for people with depression having frequent online communication with others in their condition may be very helpful, regardless of whether they receive help, provide it to others, or both. Such communication with others who are able to understand what they are going through may redeem users of the isolation that often accompanies depression, make them realize that they are not alone, and empower them.

Therefore, the current study may join previous research (e.g., Amichai – Hamburger & Furnham, 2007; Campbell et al., 2006, Shaw & Gant, 2002) that commended the Internet for its potential to contribute to increased well – being, arguing that the participation in online depression communities may be viewed as an effective complimentary means for coping with depression.

More generally, the findings of this study verify the need to examine the “Internet paradox” and the various associations between Internet use and psychological well-being among more diverse audiences and in a greater resolution than previous research did.