Community attachment and emotional well-being: an empirical study of an online community for people with diabetes

Philip Fei Wu, Roberta Bernadi

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The purpose of this research is to investigate how attachment to an online health community (OHC) may reduce the OHC users’ emotional distress and therefore improve their emotional wellbeing. This is one of the first studies on the antecedents of community attachment and the relationship between community attachment and emotional distress in the context of OHC. A survey study was conducted in one of the largest online health communities for people with diabetes. We found that community attachment is positively associated with the OHC users’ normative expectations of reciprocity and their affective feeling of gratitude. However, some commonly used behavioral metrics of community participation, such as visit frequency and membership tenure, have little to do with either community attachment or reduced emotional distress. The research highlights the pivotal role of community attachment in appraising the much-debated benefits of OHCs. The study also implies that design features facilitating reciprocation and gratitude expression among users can lead to a strong community bond.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Technology & People
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2020


  • online health communities
  • community participation
  • reciprocity
  • gratitude
  • diabetes
  • emotional well-being

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