Cross-sectional survey of users of Internet depression communities.
Powell J., McCarthy N., Eysenbach G.
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.