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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cross-sectional survey of users of Internet depression communities

John Powell1*, Noel McCarthy2 and Gunther Eysenbach3

Author Affiliations

1 Health Services Research Unit, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT; UK

2 Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Institute of Health Sciences, Oxford OX3 7LF; UK

3 Centre for Global eHealth Innovation and Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto; Toronto, M5G 2C4; Canada

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BMC Psychiatry 2003, 3:19  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-3-19

Published: 10 December 2003

Abstract

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.