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Wellness impacts of social capital built in online peer support forums


Kilpatrick, S and Emery, SG and Farmer, J and Kamstra, P, Wellness impacts of social capital built in online peer support forums, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19 Article 15427. ISSN 1661-7827 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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2022. The Authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

DOI: doi:10.3390/ijerph192315427


The study reported in this paper sought to explore whether and how social capital resources were generated on online peer support mental health forums, and how they were used by rural users to influence mental health outcomes. Interviews with rural users of three Australian online peer support mental health forums were analysed to identify interactions that accessed social capital resources and mental wellness outcomes that flowed from these. Analysis drew on a model of simultaneous building and using of social capital to uncover the nature of the social capital resources present on the forum and how they were built. Findings show that forums were sites for building 'knowledge resources' including archives of users' experiences of navigating mental illness and the mental health service system; and 'identity resources' including a willingness to contribute in line with forum values. The knowledge and identity resources built and available to rural users on the forums are facilitated by forum characteristics, which can be viewed as affordances of technology and institutional affordances. Operation by trusted organisations, moderation, a large network of users and anonymity created a safe space that encouraged reciprocity and where users exchanged information and social support that helped them maintain better mental wellness.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:social capital, wellbeing, online peer support forums, mental health, reciprocity, rural mental health
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Mental health services
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Provision of health and support services
Objective Field:Mental health services
UTAS Author:Kilpatrick, S (Professor Sue Kilpatrick)
UTAS Author:Emery, SG (Dr Sherridan Emery)
UTAS Author:Farmer, J (Professor Jane Farmer)
ID Code:154325
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP200100419)
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2022-11-23
Last Modified:2022-12-02
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