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Sociability and support in online eating disorder communities: Evidence from personal networks

Sociability and support in online eating disorder communities: Evidence from personal networks

Tubaro, Paola and Mounier, Lise (2014) Sociability and support in online eating disorder communities: Evidence from personal networks. Network Science, 2 (1). pp. 1-25. ISSN 2050-1242 (Print), 2050-1250 (Online) (doi:https://doi.org/10.1017/nws.2014.6)

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Abstract

We study how people select their health support ties from their broader personal networks, taking into account the interplay of web-based and face-to-face interactions. We focus on users of self-styled Internet communities on eating disorders, often dubbed 'pro-ana' and 'pro-mia' and widely feared to contribute to maintaining and spreading these disorders. Despite the controversial antimedical stances of some of them, ‘ana-mia’ websites may channel mutual assistance, advice, and psychological and emotional support, with ultimate benefits for health.

In 2011-12 we fielded an online survey of users of French- and English-language ‘ana-mia’ websites, mapping the composition and structure of their personal networks both online and face-to-face, and their health and eating-related support networks, for two types of health issues. We estimate binary choice models for these data and find that different health needs call for different types of support, embedded in different parts of personal networks. Specifically, online groups provide distinctive sources of help, which partly compensate for perceived shortcomings in healthcare services, although members do not overwhelmingly reject standard health systems and norms. We discuss how web-based groups constitute an important source of social support, and a potential resource for enhanced public health services provision.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] First published online: 23 April 2014. [2] Published in print: April 2014.
Uncontrolled Keywords: personal networks, online social networks, social support, social circles, pro-ana and pro-mia websites, eating disorders, health.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Networks and Urban Systems Centre (NUSC) > Centre for Business Network Analysis (CBNA)
Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 15:06
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: GREAT 5
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/11357

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