Young adults' Internet help-seeking patterns in coping with health-related stress : psychological resilience and gender effects
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The Internet has become a crucial and complementary information and help-seeking resource, especially for young adults who began using this medium early in life. In light of its unique attributes (e.g., easy availability, confidentiality) and its pervasiveness, this medium may play a crucial role as a help-seeking resource when young adults cope with problems in the midst of stressful situations. Although the Internet has the potential to be a popular and crucial medium for allowing young people to use help-seeking tools in difficult situations to reduce their stress, its efficacy as a coping mechanism in facing stressful situations may be partially determined by individuals' levels of psychological resilience. The purpose of this study was to explore these issues by addressing three specific goals. The first goal was to explore the effect of psychological resilience on young adults’ actions by determining how young individuals with different levels of psychological resilience use the Internet as a resource for coping with acute stress. The second goal was to capture common information-seeking and help-seeking behavioral patterns in which young adults engage when facing problems. The final goal was to examine gender differences in the use of the Internet for help-seeking when facing stressful situations. Participants were 98 (57 female, 41 male) college-level students and they filled out a self-report set of questionnaires. Results indicated that psychological resilience did not contribute to explaining young adults’ different kinds of Internet use or the likelihood or frequency of young adults’ Internet use in alleviating their current health concern related to a stressful situation. Also, two active and problem-focused coping behaviors regarding health-related information seeking (to learn about symptoms or treatments corresponding to their disease of interest, or to find appropriate clinic or hospital information) also did not relate to levels of psychological resilience. However, psychological resilience did predict one active and problem-focused coping behavior, that of consulting with a doctor using the Q &A section on a medical information site. Results also indicated that most young adults access the Internet as a help-seeking resource for their current health-related stressful situations. Overall, young adults perceived the Internet as a tool for adaptive help-seeking activities when they are coping with health – related stressors. Results also indicated no gender differences in the help-seeking behaviors of young adults, suggesting that the Internet may be used as a help-seeking tool comprehensively by both men and women. However, the study did reveal gender differences in the types of health-related scenarios that each young adult chose as the most acutely stressful. In particular, female young adults were more likely than males to appraise STDs as very stressful. Limitations, implication for practice, and directions for future research are also discussed.