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An Investigation of Social Support Exchange and Communication Patterns among Chinese on Online Discussion Forum

By Xi Wang, Xing Tong, Yushan Zhu, Tianyi Tan and Bowen Zheng


Online Health Communities (OHCs), frequently adopted as online discussion forums for online users to communicate on health issues, have been used worldwide. By analyzing a representative breast-cancer-related OHC from mainland China—Baidu Discussion Forum, this study attempts to investigate social support exchange and communication patterns through user-generated content by data mining approaches. According to the outcomes, emotional support seeking and providing presents itself to be a more critical theme among Chinese users than other types of social support. In addition, almost half of the users on Baidu Discussion Forum have simple patterns of involvement, and a fairly small proportion of highly active Chinese users are quite influential in shaping the connections of the social support network. Meanwhile, the off-topic discussions which are not directly on health concerns are not frequently touched by Chinese people. This may impact the longevity of both users and threads, and undermine the foundation of OHCs in the long term. The findings have practical implications for researchers and health practitioners targeting on the Chinese population

Topics: Online Health Communities, Social Network, Social Support, Online Discussion Forum
Publisher: AIS Electronic Library (AISeL)
Year: 2020
OAI identifier:

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