Longitudinal social network analyses were conducted to examine social support exchange among patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on an online health forum. The analyses of 90,965 messages posted by 9,369 patients from 2008 to 2012 suggest that both receiving and offering support significantly encourage continuous social support exchange. Patients, however, were less likely to offer further social support when they kept reciprocating support only with certain individuals on the forum. Sentiment analysis indicates that self-disclosing one’s emotions during support seeking serves as a significant predictor for the amount of social support the support-seeker could obtain. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
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