Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 185–193 | Cite as

Hanging by a thread: exploring the features of nonresponse in an online young adult cancer survivorship support community

  • Brittani Crook
  • Elizabeth M. Glowacki
  • Brad Love
  • Barbara L. Jones
  • Catherine Fiona Macpherson
  • Rebecca H. Johnson



Finding helpful information can be challenging for young adult (YA) cancer survivors; thus, it is critical to examine features of online posts that successfully solicit responses and assess how these differ from posts that do not solicit responses.


Using posts from an online YA cancer support community, we analyzed initial posts that did and did not receive replies utilizing Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC).


Independent t tests revealed significant differences between the sets of posts regarding content, emotions, cognitive processes, pronoun use, and linguistic complexity. More specifically, posts with replies contained fewer words per sentence, had more first-person pronouns, had more expressions of negative emotions, and contained more present tense and past tense verbs.


The findings of this study can help improve peer-exchanged support in online communities so that YA cancer survivors can more effectively receive digital support. This research also provides communication researchers, health educators, and care providers a lens for understanding the YA cancer survivorship experience.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

This research helps survivors be strategic in how they use online forums to seek advice and support. More complete understanding of what kinds of prompts produce responses allows those in need to craft messages in ways that are most likely to elicit support from fellow cancer survivors. These implications for message design extend beyond blogging and can be applicable for text message and email exchanges between cancer patients and their care providers.


Young adult Cancer Online communities Nonresponse LIWC 



The authors wish to acknowledge the support of Seattle Children’s Hospital, which provided funding for this research through an award from Seattle Children’s Hospital d/b/a Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, under funding provided by the Teen Cancer Program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Seattle Children’s. Seattle Children’s neither reviewed nor approved the manuscript for publication.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication Studies, Moody College of CommunicationThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations, Moody College of CommunicationThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Center for Health Communication, Moody College of CommunicationThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  4. 4.The University of Texas at Austin School of Social WorkAustinUSA
  5. 5.Adolescent and Young Adult Program, Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood DiasesChildren’s Hospital Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  6. 6.Division of Pediatric Hematology/OncologyMary Bridge Hospital/MultiCareTacomaUSA

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