Chapter Three: Research Objectives
Chapter two delivered an extensive analysis of research in the fields of Chronic Pain, social media and support groups and how they interrelate. Many previous health management paradigms fail to examine the extent of and importance of social media support pages as mechanisms for engagement and support. The development of virtual communities as a means for gaining support and guidance is often overlooked in the creation of self-management strategies; families and carers are frequently disregarded entirely as a part of this process. Seeking support online can be an opportune way for people to connect with others who may have similar conditions or face similar struggles.
The chapter will attempt to bring a greater understanding to the importance of online peer support networks in regards to the management of Chronic Pain and show to which extent people are using these types of mechanisms to gain social support.
Proposition One – Explore the extent that a closed Facebook group is used for social support
It is clear that good self-management is necessary for effective medical care for chronic illness (Von Korff et al., 1997) and social media is seen to be an effective mechanism for this; a study conducted by Professor Jenny Strong states that 21% of people used social media to find out about the pain experiences of others so as to compare it to their own conditions (Australian Nursing Journal, 2012). According to Pew Internet, about 60% of those who search the Internet for health information use online social media (Fox, 2009).
Proposition one aims to explore the extent that Facebook closed groups are used for social support. Social media, with its ease of access and prominence in Web 2.0 culture has a great potential to help sufferers gain ongoing support for their condition. There has been little attention given to understanding the factors which may contribute to the success (or not) of online informal support groups during the course of their existence (Coulson & Shaw, 2013) and the composition of such groups on social media platforms such as Facebook. There is also limited research to examine factors that prompt individuals who are living with or caring for those with Chronic Pain to seek online support through informal support mechanisms, such as Facebook groups.
Proposition Two – Explore the difference in gender that applies to seeking support in this environment
Men are often less likely than women to actively seek medical care when they are ill, choosing instead to “tough it out” (Talbot & Tudiver, 1999, pg. 47). One reason men may underutilize health and counselling services is that they have less favourable attitudes regarding seeking professional help than women (Gonzalez, Alegria, & Prihoda, 2005). Traditional masculine norms dictated by the dominant culture in society state that men should be stoic, controlled, and self-sufficient (Mahalik et al., 2003), behaviours that are generally inconsistent with seeking help.
Pederson and Vogel (2007) found support for a help-seeking model in which the relationship between men’s gender role conflict and attitudes toward seeking counselling was partially mediated by the self-stigma associated with seeking help. In other words, greater endorsement of and difficulties with the male gender role was related to increased self-stigma, which in turn led to less positive attitudes toward seeking help.
Proposition two aims to explore the difference in gender that applies to seeking support in an online environment in regards to the care and management of Chronic Pain.
Proposition Three – Explore the level of engagement within a closed Facebook group between a carer and a sufferer
In the Survey of Disability, Aging and Caring, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012), a carer is defined as a person of any age who provides any informal assistance, in terms of help or supervision, to an older person or someone who has a disability or a long-term health condition. This assistance has been, or is likely to be, ongoing for at least six months. A primary carer is someone who provides the most informal assistance to a person with disability with one or more of the core activities of mobility, self-care and communication.
Almost 2.7 million Australians were carers in 2012 (12%), with 770,000 (3.4%) identified as primary carers (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012). Of the many reasons primary carers reported for taking on the role of the main informal care provider, the most common was a sense of family responsibility (63%). Females made up the majority of carers, representing 70% of primary carers and 56% of carers overall.
Proposition three intends to explore the level of engagement of Facebook closed groups that are used for social support, for carers and sufferers of Chronic Pain. Connecting with communities, family and friends is important for both carers and care recipients. Depending on the level of commitment in terms of time and resources required by their caring roles, this can be quite challenging for some carers and family members.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012). Survey of Disability, Aging and Caring. Australian Social Trends. Retrieved 10/06/14 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/91BD3B5EEE641759CA257C21000D81EF?opendocument
Australian Nursing Journal (2012). Chronic sufferers seek support online. Australian Nursing Journal 20(1): 8.
Coulson, N.S & Shaw, R.L. (2013) Nurturing health-related online support groups: Exploring the experiences of patient moderators. Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 29, (Issue 4) Pages 1695-1701 Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074756321300068X
Fox, S. (2011) The social life of health information, Pew Internet & American Life ProjectPew Research Center Publications, Washington, DC, USA
Gonzalez, J. M., Alegria, M., & Prihoda, T. J. ( 2005). How do attitudes toward mental health treatment vary by age, gender, and ethnicity/race in young adults?Journal of Community Psychology, 33, 611– 629. doi: 10.1002/jcop.20071
Mahalik, J. R., Locke, B. D., Ludlow, L. H., Deimer, M. A., Scott, R. P. J., Gottfried, M., & Freitas, G. ( 2003). Development of the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 4, 3– 25. doi: 10.1037/1524-918.104.22.168
Pederson, E. L., & Vogel, D. L. ( 2007). Men’s gender role conflict and their willingness to seek counseling: A mediation model. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54, 373– 384. doi: 10.1037/0022-022.214.171.1243
Talbot, Y. & Tudiver, F. (1999) Why Don’t Men Seek Help? Family Physicians’ Perspectives on Help-Seeking Behaviour in Men. Journal of Family Practice. 48(1) pg. 47
Vogel, D. L., Heimerdinger-Edwards, S. R., Hammer, J. H., & Hubbard, A. (2011). “Boys don’t cry”: Examination of the links between endorsement of masculine norms, self-stigma, and help-seeking attitudes for men from diverse backgrounds. Journal Of Counselling Psychology, 58(3), 368-382. doi:10.1037/a0023688
Von Korff, M., & Gruman, J. (1997). Collaborative management of chronic illness. Annals Of Internal Medicine, 127(12), 1097.