What are people talking about on health-related Internet forums? Content analysis by illness and gender

Raquel Suriá, Marina Beléndez


In recent years, Internet has made possible the emergence and consolidation of a new form of interpersonal communication such as the discussion among members of health related bulletin boards or discussion forums. One of the more fruitful research work is aimed to analyze the content of the exchanged messages among participants.

The present work analyzes the frequency of the topics in the messages that are exchanged among users of internet discussion forums for health problems by sex and illness. A total of 756 postings of participants in four Spanish-speaking internet bulletin boards were analyzed (diabetes, fibromyalgia, sclerosis and asthma). Each posting was analyzed for the presence or absence of 15 coding categories subsumed under four broad categories (social support, illness and treatment issues, interpersonal issues and expression of emotions). Postings regarding giving informational support and instrumental support were more frequent at diabetes discussion board. Expressions of positive emotions (optimism and gratitude) were predominately found on fibromyalgia boards. Differences by sex were only found in some categories and in some forums.


Internet forums; social support; content analysis; illness

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5944/ap.7.1.206


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