Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

, Volume 27, Issue 3–6, pp 327–354 | Cite as

Online Support Groups for Depression in China: Culturally Shaped Interactions and Motivations

  • Renwen Zhang
  • Jordan Eschler
  • Madhu Reddy


Online support groups have drawn considerable attention from scholars in the past decades. While prior research has explored the interactions and motivations of users, we know relatively little about how culture shapes the way people use and understand online support groups. Drawing on ethnographic research in a Chinese online depression community, we examine how online support groups function in the context of Chinese culture for people with depression. Through online observations and interviews, we uncover the unique interactions among users in this online support group, such as peer diagnosis, peer therapy, and public journaling. These activities were intertwined with Chinese cultural values and the scarcity of mental health resources in China. We also show that online support groups play an important role in fostering individual empowerment and improving public understanding of depression in China. This paper provides insights into the interweaving of culture and online health community use and contributes to a context-rich understanding of online support groups.


Mental health Depression Online support groups Culture Stigma Empowerment 



We thank the individuals who participated in this study. We also thank Gary Fine, Courtney Scherr, the reviewers and editors for their valuable insights and feedback.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication StudiesNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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