THURSDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- People with psoriasis can get valuable educational, psychological and social support from online communities, a U.S. study finds.
It included 260 adults who took part in one of five online support groups. The participants -- mostly white, female, college-educated and averaging 40 years old -- included 188 (73.7 percent) with moderate or severe psoriasis and 206 (79.9 percent) who rated their health as average or better.
The availability of resources was the key factor in their use of an online support group, followed by convenience, access to good advice and lack of embarrassment when dealing with personal issues. In addition, about three-fourths of the participants said anonymity was an important feature of online support use.
The study found that 49.5 percent of participants said they believed their quality of life improved, and 41 percent perceived improvements in psoriasis severity, after they joined an online group. The findings were published in the January issue of Archives of Dermatology.
"Although online psoriasis support groups are still in their nascent stage, they have captured a loyal and growing audience," wrote Shereene Z. Idriss and colleagues at the Center for Connected Health, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, all in Boston. "The dermatology community should consider leveraging the infrastructure of online support groups to build on delivering personalized and integrated medical care to individuals affected by psoriasis."
Psoriasis, a disease that causes skin and joint problems, affects 0.6 percent to 4.8 percent of the world's population, according to background information in the study. The disease can also affect financial, emotional and sexual well-being, and about 10 percent of people with psoriasis have contemplated suicide, the study said in explaining the need for psychological support for people with the disease.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about psoriasis.
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