People who are trying to quit smoking may find help from online support groups, a new study suggests. These groups can provide a strong sense of community, without requiring people to attend on-site meetings.
Researchers from the University of Georgia looked at social networking sites designed to help people quit smoking. Based on an online questionnaire answered by 252 participants, they found that as participation on the sites increased, members began to build a sense of community, the Daily News reports. Participants said they identified more strongly with other members, received and gave more social support, found common ground from smoking behaviors, and built a sense of trust.
Participants in the online groups became more likely to quit smoking, and found it easier to do so. They also stayed smoke free longer, and were more likely to abstain from smoking during tempting situations, such as a night out drinking, or during levels of high stress or sadness, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Communication.
“This study helps further the notion that social networking sites and other forms of social media can help people to improve their health conditions,” lead researcher Joe Phua of the University of Georgia said in a news release. “These can be used as a stand-alone way to improve chronic health conditions, or as part of a holistic treatment plan that includes both professional offline help and online social media sites.”
Unlike traditional support groups, social media forums are free and do not require any travel, the study notes.