Social Support and Social Anxiety in Use and Perceptions of Online Mental Health Resources: Exploring Social Compensation and Enhancement

Erin K. Ruppel, Christopher J. McKinley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study used the frameworks of social compensation and social enhancement to examine how social anxiety and social support were related to college students' (N=443) use and perceptions of online mental health resources (Web sites and online support groups). Potential interactions between social support and social anxiety were also examined. Consistent with the social compensation hypothesis, perceived usefulness of Web sites was positively associated with social support. Perceived usefulness of online support groups was positively associated with social support when participants reported average or high, but not low, social anxiety. In contrast, previous use of Web sites was consistent with the social compensation hypothesis. Participants who reported less social support were more likely to have used a Web site for a mental or emotional problem. These findings suggest that college students' use and perceptions of online mental health resources vary as a function of social support and social anxiety, and that patterns suggestive of social compensation and social enhancement depend on whether perceptions or actual use of resources are examined. Combined with the significant interaction between social support and social anxiety on perceived usefulness of online support groups, these findings highlight the potential complexity of social compensation and enhancement phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-467
Number of pages6
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Volume18
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015

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