Social Support and Stress

Social Support and Stress

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4020-5.ch002
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In today's hyperconnected world, social media provides more than social support. In fact, social scientists have linked it to the wellbeing of individuals. Social media sites provide open and accessible communication platforms for families, caregivers, and individuals with autism. They are able to share, connect, and exchange information. Furthermore, social media is an efficient means of connecting due to communication challenges of autistic individuals. However, there is a need to scientifically measure social support and stress dissipated through online interaction. Using the proposed assessment methodology of social support and stress in online interaction, it is observed that the autism community provides significant social support to its members through Twitter and blogs. Social support facilitated by interactions with autism community members reduces psychological stress and improves the quality of life for the families dealing with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
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Social Support

Sociologists published many research works on the social support concept. White and Dorman (2001) found the usefulness of social support as compared to traditional methods for many users who do not have the desire or ability to attend the face-to-face session. Arora et al. (2007) found that women who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer found positive social support through family, friends, and healthcare providers. Coulson (2005) found evidence of online social support in the form of emotional and informational support received by an individual with irritable bowel syndrome. In their study on Norwegian mental health-related online discussion forums, Kummervold et al. (2002) found that online interactions benefitted people suffering from mental disorder.

Recent research by Gallant, et Irizarry, Boone, and Kreps (2011) indicated that social media platforms like blogs and Twitter were convenient platforms to communicate in healthcare communities. Weiss (2002) found that social support played an active role in reducing depression and anxiety in mothers of children with autism. A study by Jordan (2010), which focused on the evolution of online autism support, found benefits of the Internet in spreading education and autism awareness. Shaw and Gant (2002) found that the Internet reduced loneliness and depression while increasing self-esteem among users with psychological health issues. A study on an online smoking community established that online support from community members provided confidence among individuals to meet a beneficial intervention outcome (Zhang, Yang, & Gong, 2013). Mothers of children with autism attested to the helpful role of advocacy and activism among community members (Ryan & Cole, 2009). Social support received from other members of the community increases self-confidence and creates a social identity (Wenger, 2000). Coulson, Buchanan, and Aubeeluck (2007), in a study on online support of Huntington’s disease, found a significant impact of online forum support. Boyd (2002) found effectiveness of formal online social support vs. informal online social support to reduce stress in parents of children with autism. A study by Baker showed online social groups and online forum communication benefits users through an increase in empowerment and self-respect (Barak, Hen, Boniel-Nissim, & Shapira, 2008). Bambina (2007) shed light on behavioral characteristics of users who sought out online support through social media platforms.

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