Online Support for Informal Caregivers: Psychosocial Outcomes
Hayes, Evelyn R.
Diefenbeck, Cynthia A.
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(41st Biennial Convention) Purpose: To evaluate whether psychosocial outcomes in family caregivers of people with chronic disease differ, based on the format of online group support. Background and Significance: Fifty million Americans care for family members with chronic illness. Research on the psychosocial effects of caregiving on informal caregivers is lacking. Sample: Individuals at least 21 years old, employed, and providing care to family member with a chronic condition. Method: Randomized longitudinal design, comparing two types of online support groups (moderated; peer-led) on the basis of three principal measures (depressive symptoms, caregiver burden, quality of life). Results: Forty-four subjects participated (female=40; male=4). Twenty-four were assigned professionally moderated group and 20 to a group run in a peer-led format. Twenty-nine completed the questionnaires at all four timepoints. (moderated=15; peer-led=14). There were no significant differences between the groups on demographic variables. There were no significant differences in levels of depressive symptoms, caregiver burden, or quality of life between those in the moderated and peer-led groups at baseline or over time (p>0.05). Some subjects did not participate in the online discussions, but completed the study questionnaires. The presence of lurkers in this study was consistent with other reports of online support groups. A number of lurkers in online discussion groups should be expected and is not necessarily detrimental. Conclusions: There were no significant differences in psychosocial outcomes based on format of online support. The format of online support may not be as important in determining psychosocial outcomes, as the support itself. Level of participation was not significant in predicting depressive symptoms scores, caregiver burden, or QOL. Implications: Family caregivers often need information and support. This research adds to the knowledge base related to online support for family caregivers by measuring the effects of different online support group formats on specific psychosocial variables over time.