Klemm, P. (2012). Effects of online support group format (moderated vs peer-led) on depressive symptoms and extent of participation in women with breast cancer. Computers, Informatics, Nursing: CIN, 30(1), 9–18.10.1097/NCN.0b013e3182343efa
To evaluate the effects, in women with breast cancer, of moderated and peer-led online support group format on symptoms of depression and degree of participation
Investigator distributed recruitment material via postal mail, online, or through nonprofit organizations or the media. Interested women contacted the investigator after receiving or seeing recruitment material. Participants were placed into a moderated or peer-led group, in groups of 15 according to time of recruitment. All online support was accessed via a university-owned web page devoted to the work. Participants could not access groups to which they were not assigned. Moderators were master's-prepared social workers with experience with online and telephone help for people with cancer and their caregivers. Investigators obtained study measures at baseline and at 6, 12, and 16 weeks. The group was maintained for 12 weeks.
Longitudinal two-group design
Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD)
At the end of the study, findings revealed no significant effects, on symptoms of depression, in regard to group, time, or time by group format. CESD scores in peer-led groups declined slightly at all study time points but were not significantly different from the scores of moderator-led groups. In both groups, symptoms of depression were mild. More messages were posted and read in moderated groups than in peer-led groups.
The study showed no effect of peer- or moderator-led online support groups on symptoms of depression in women with breast cancer.
This study does not provide strong support for the effectiveness of either peer-led or moderated online support groups on symptoms of depression; however, at baseline the depression scores of most participants were fairly low, and study groups were not balanced on baseline depression symptoms. It is not clear if such support efforts are beneficial to individuals who do not have a high level of depression symptoms. This finding could have influenced study results. Research in this area should stratify samples on the basis of the level of symptoms at baseline.