Kendal, Sarah, Kirk, Susan, Elvey, Rebecca, Catchpole, Roger and Pryjmachuk, Steven (2016) How a moderated online discussion forum facilitates support for young people with eating disorders. Health Expectations. ISSN 1369-6513

Introduction: Eating disorders in young people can be harmful to social, emotional and physical development and life chances. Young people with eating disorders encounter particular barriers to help-seeking. They may use social media to obtain advice, support or information, which in turn can inform their decision-making about their health. The impact of social media on the wellbeing of young people is an emotive subject, but research evidence is limited and the issue is not clearly understood. This study aimed to explore how young people use a moderated, online discussion forum for young people with eating disorders, which was run by an eating disorders charity.

Methods: We used a netnographic approach involving downloading and thematically analysing over 400 messages posted August-November 2012.

Results: Data analysis generated five themes: Taking on the role of mentor; the online discussion forum as a safe space; Friendship within the online forum; Flexible help; and Peer support for recovery and relapse prevention. The process of moderating messages appeared to influence the culture of the forum.

Discussion: Our findings are consistent with literature about young people’s preferences for mental health self-care support. A young person’s decision to use this form of social media can be construed as a positive action that promotes their self-care. A moderated online discussion forum can make a positive contribution to support for young people with eating disorders, countering negative media perceptions of online groups. The role of forum moderation requires further exploration.

Conclusion: This study adds to knowledge about how young people access support via an online discussion forum. Some forums can be safe and acceptable spaces for young people to access help. Further research could provide insights into how forum moderation affects the safety of forum users.

Kendal_et_al-2016-Health_Expectations.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (156kB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email