Fostering Participant Health Knowledge and Attitudes: An Econometric Study of a Chronic Disease-Focused Online Health Community


Health consumers are increasingly participating in consumer-to-consumer (C2C) online health communities (OHCs) to receive health-related support and to provide assistance and support to others. However, questions remain as to how individual OHC participants are affected by the relationships they have established within an OHC and how the content exchanged between OHC participants impacts individual-level health knowledge and attitudes. To address these open questions, we develop a model that integrates participant network position (i.e., structural social capital) in an OHC, informational and emotional support exchange, and downstream individual-level health knowledge and attitudes. Based on a panel dataset collected from nine chronic disease-focused discussion boards within an OHC platform, we find that structural social capital is indeed a significant antecedent to social support exchange within an OHC and, interestingly, that social support provisioning (i.e., proactively aiding others) has a stronger effect than social support receipt on health literacy and health attitude improvement.


Business and Information Technology

Keywords and Phrases

Chronic Disease; Health Attitudes; Health Knowledge; Health Literacy; Machine Learning; Online Health Communities; Social Network Analysis; Social Support Exchange; Structural Social Capital

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0742-1222; 1557-928X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2019 Routledge, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2019