Cross-sectional survey of users of Internet depression communities

Powell, John; McCarthy, Noel; Eysenbach, Gunther
January 2003
BMC Psychiatry;2003, Vol. 3, p19
Academic Journal
Background: Internet-based depression communities provide a forum for individuals to communicate and share information and ideas. There has been little research into the health status and other characteristics of users of these communities. Methods: Online cross-sectional survey of Internet depression communities to identify depressive morbidity among users of Internet depression communities in six European countries; to investigate whether users were in contact with health services and receiving treatment; and to identify user perceived effects of the communities. Results: Major depression was highly prevalent among respondents (varying by country from 40% to 64%). Forty-nine percent of users meeting criteria for major depression were not receiving treatment, and 35% had no consultation with health services in the previous year. Thirty-six percent of repeat community users who had consulted a health professional in the previous year felt that the Internet community had been an important factor in deciding to seek professional help. Conclusions: There are high levels of untreated and undiagnosed depression in users of Internet depression communities. This group represents a target for intervention. Internet communities can provide information and support for stigmatizing conditions that inhibit more traditional modes of information seeking.


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