Supportive communication, sense of virtual community and health outcomes in online infertility groups
Women are turning to online health groups to deal with the stresses and complications of infertility. Online groups may provide a resource that is potentially absent in their face-to-face communities. This study examines how the sense of virtual community (SOVC) that develops in these groups serves as a buffer between perceived stress and physical health symptoms. A sample of 122 women from two virtual communities completed an online survey. Results show that observing the exchange of emotional support was positively related to SOVC while observing informational support was negatively related to SOVC. Further, SOVC was negatively related to physical health symptoms and additionally, served as a buffer between stress and physical health symptoms. Implications for SOVC and virtual health community research are discussed.