||The Internet and Mental Health : A Synthesis of the Literature
16 , 2015-12-25
The Internet offers an alternative venue for people with mental health problems to find information and connect with other people with common experience. They can seek information on a wide range of topics, such as the latest treatment options and recommendations of clinics and doctors. But what are the possible benefits and problems surrounding information seeking on the Internet? What are the consequences? By reviewing and synthesizing existing literature, this paper explores how the Internet has served people with mental health problems. This article provides an overview of three types of research that examined the relationships between mental health and the Internet. During the 1990s, research focused on examining the main effects of the Internet on mental health. In the early 2000s, virtual communities became increasingly popular among health information seekers, and accordingly, many researchers analyzed characteristics of those communities and impacts on mental health among users. Starting in the mid-2000s, mHealth, or mobile health care, gained much research attention for its potential to deliver health information and services to a wider population. After critically analyzing each of those three streams of research, this paper concludes that the development and proliferation of new Internet technologies are occurring at a much faster speed than the formal evaluation process. As a consequence, many of the new Internet technologies stay in the realm of being potentially beneficial whereby the expected outcomes have not yet been proved by evidence.