Cyber-victimisation of adults with long-term conditions in the UK: A cross-sectional study

Alhaboby, Zhraa; Barnes, James; Evans, Hala and Short, Emma (2023). Cyber-victimisation of adults with long-term conditions in the UK: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, article no. 39933.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2196/39933

Abstract

Background:
Individuals living with chronic conditions and disabilities experience harassment and cyber-victimisation which impose distressing consequences. This is mostly documented among children and adolescents. However, the scope of such experiences is not well-documented among adults with long-term conditions, and the potential impact was not examined from a public health perspective in this context.

Objective:
This study aims to examine the scope of cyber-victimisation among adults living with long term conditions in the UK and the perceived impact on the self-management of chronic conditions.

Methods:
This paper reports the findings of the quantitative phase of a mixed-method study in the UK. An online survey was developed and disseminated, the recruitment was online via 55 victim support groups, health support organisations, and social media accounts of non-governmental organisations and activists.

Results:
Quantitative data from 152 participants showed that almost one in every two adults with chronic conditions was cyber-victimised (45.39%). Most victims (76.81%) had a self-reported disability, and the relationship between cyber-victimisation and disability was statistically significant. The most common means to contact the victims included Facebook (63.24%), followed by personal email or text messaging, each accounting for 27(39.71%). Nine participants (13.24%) were victimised in online health forums. Furthermore, 61.11% of victims reported that experiencing cyber-victimisation had affected their health condition self-management plan. The highest impact was on lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet, avoiding triggers, and avoiding excessive smoking or alcohol drinking. This was followed by changes to medications and follow up with healthcare professionals. The majority of victims (69%) perceived a worsened self-efficacy on the Self-Efficacy for Managing Chronic Diseases Scales. In general, formal support was rated poor, with only 24.53% of victims having disclosed this experience to their physicians.

Conclusions:
Cyber-victimisation of people with chronic conditions is prevalent. It triggered significant fear, worsened disability discrimination, and negatively influenced the self-management of different health conditions. Further context-specific and condition-specific research are needed. Clinical Trial: N/A

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