Notice: the WebSM website has not been updated since the beginning of 2018.

Web Survey Bibliography

Title Measuring Perceived Virtual Social Support in Online Self-Help Groups
Author Preiß, H.
Year 2009
Access date 13.08.2009

In order to examine the extent of how users of online self-help groups gain personal profit by getting involved, the construct of perceived virtual social support is well established. Diverse strategies of measuring have been developed in the past (e. g. Turner et al. 2001; Winzelberg et al. 2000; Wright 1999), but a reliable scale, which considers different dimensions of virtual social support has not been published yet. This was the scope of the present study carried out in a broad range of different German online health self-help groups.

Method: Based on past research, especially qualitative studies categorizing dimensions of helping mechanisms carried out in online self-help groups (particularly Finn, 1999; furthermore Braithwaite et al., 1999; Cutrona/Suhr, 1992) 130 items were constructed to be answered on a six-point Likert scale ranging from “Totally agree” to “Totally disagree”.

Information about the web survey was posted in a sample of online self-help group consisting of 10 electronic mailing lists, 34 bulletin boards and one website offering a chat only. The online survey was reached 3051 times being online 81 days. After data cleansing excluding multiple submissions, drop-outs and data with bad quality (identified by a self-developed quality variable based on the mean time of answering of every site) data of 757 publicly posting participants remained for further analyses.

Results: Multiple principal component analyses were processed and led to a three-factor solution including 22 items. The emerging scale has a very good reliability with a Cronbach’s Alpha of .90 for the perceived virtual social support scale. Subscales are:

  • Face-to-Face support (8 items, α=.87)
  • Vicarious virtual support (7 items, α=.85)
  • Emotional virtual support (7 items, α=.83)

Further details of the scale and findings within the study are presented.

Conclusion: Based on this scale future research in the field of online self-help groups is able to measure perceived virtual social support in a reliable and differentiated way and may thus help getting to know more about effects and influences on the benefit of using virtual support groups.

Access/Direct link

Conference homepage (abstract)

Year of publication2009
Bibliographic typeConferences, workshops, tutorials, presentations
Full text availabilityFurther details

Web survey bibliography (4086)