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Virtual Socialization in Adults With Spina Bifida

Chan, WM and Dicianno, BE (2011) Virtual Socialization in Adults With Spina Bifida. PM and R, 3 (3). 219 - 225. ISSN 1934-1482

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Objective: To use spina bifida (SB) as a model of chronic physical disability to study the associations of virtual socialization, friendships, and quality of life (QOL) in adults. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting: Subjects were recruited from residential living facilities, outpatient clinics, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) research registry. Patients: Inclusion criteria were age between 18 and 80 years and clinical diagnoses of SB cystica (myelomeningocele) and hydrocephalus. The exclusion criterion was the diagnosis of SB occulta. Sixty-three eligible adults were enrolled, and all completed the study. Methods: The survey via questionnaire was performed in person or over the telephone. Main Outcome Measurements: Data collected included the World Health Organization's Medical Outcomes Study 26-item Short Form, Economic Self-Sufficiency from the Craig Handicap Assessment and Reporting Technique Short Form, virtual socializing habits, and number of friends. Three linear regression models were performed, each with a unique dependent variable: number of friends, psychological QOL, or social QOL. The following independent variables were included in all models: age, gender, ethnicity, economic self-sufficiency, marital status, education level, lesion level, health status, user group, collection method, and time spent virtually socializing. In addition, each regression model included the dependent variables from the other 2 models in its independent variables. Results: Increased degree of virtual socialization (VS) was associated with a greater number of friends (P = .003, r = .684). Mean (standard deviation) numbers of friends by VS groups were the following: users, n = 4.9 ± 2.7; semi-users, n = 3.8 ± 2.7; and nonusers, n = 2.1 ± 2.3, which represent a 2.3 times greater number of friends between the users and nonusers. The effect of virtual socialization on QOL was also positive, however, not statistically significant. Conclusions: People with chronic physical disabilities, such as SB, are at high risk for peer rejection and long-term social avoidance. Users of the most immersive forms of virtual socialization, have more real world friends than both semi-users and nonusers. Any form of VS, whether immersive or real time, may improve the opportunity for meaningful social encounters. Prospective intervention studies are needed to elucidate whether a causal positive relationship between virtual socialization and friendships exists. Further research is needed to clarify virtual socialization's impact on QOL; however, the upward trend in all 4 domains of QOL across user groups suggests similar potential benefits. © 2011 American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chan, WM
Dicianno, BEdicianno@pitt.eduDICIANNO0000-0003-0738-0192
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Human Engineering Research Laboratories
Date: 1 March 2011
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: PM and R
Volume: 3
Number: 3
Page Range: 219 - 225
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2010.12.002
Schools and Programs: School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences > Rehabilitation Science and Technology
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1934-1482
MeSH Headings: Adult; Cross-Sectional Studies; Disabled Persons--psychology; Female; Friends; Health Status; Humans; Internet; Linear Models; Male; Quality of Life; Questionnaires; Social Support; Spina Bifida Occulta--psychology
PubMed ID: 21402368
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2012 13:59
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2017 21:55


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