Are support groups beneficial for fibromyalgia patients? The negative effects of social comparison for those who want it most

Hinke A.K. Groothof, Ria Scholtes

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic

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    Abstract

    Peer support plays an important role in coping with many chronic health problems. Peer support may, however, contain a risk. Research has indicated that people with high social comparison orientation (SCO) are, on the one hand, more interested in contact with peers, but may, on the other hand, be negatively affected when they are confronted with peers who are worse-off. The present research studied the influence of SCO on the affective consequences of social comparison with worse-off peers during peer support among fibromyalgia patients. We predicted that fibromyalgia patients, as they have a higher SCO seek more contact with other fibromyalgia patients, identify themselves more strongly with worse-off fibromyalgia patients, and experience more negative affect when meeting worse-off fibromyalgia patients because of this increased identification. The study was carried out among 88 fibromyalgia patients recruited at support group meetings and through the website of a Dutch organization for fibromyalgia patients. The results supported our hypothesis. Despite the many beneficial effects of peer support, the present study showed that as fibromyalgia patients have a higher need to compare themselves with others, they are more negatively affected by social comparison with peers who are worse-off, because they tend to identify themselves with worse-off others.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2007

    Keywords

    • support groups
    • fibromyalgia
    • social comparison
    • identification
    • negative affect
    • social comparison orientation

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