Health-related Internet use and screening for emotional distress in people with cancer

Sammanfattning: The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate the preferences and incentives for using Internet-delivered support among people with cancer and to develop and test a generic questionnaire measuring health-related Internet use, the Health Online Support Questionnaire (HOSQ). Another aim was to examine the psychometric properties of the online-administered Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) regarding anxiety and depression in psychosocial screening among people with cancer, in comparisons with the longer instruments Montgomery Åsberg Depression Rating Scale – Self-report (MADRS-S) and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory – State (STAI-S).Study I was a correlational and descriptive study on the development and psychometric properties of the HOSQ. Study II was a cross-sectional and descriptive study on health related Internet use in patients with cancer. Study III was a cross-sectional and descriptive study examining preferences for psychological treatments. Study IV was a psychometric comparison study of two short instruments and two longer instruments measuring anxiety and depression.Findings from study I showed that the HOSQ might be a reliable and valid instrument for measuring the use of online support for people with health problems. Results ought to be replicated though in larger and other groups to confirm the results for different diagnoses.  Findings from study II confirmed results from other studies showing that people with cancer turn to the Internet for informational support that enables them to influence their care and to stay in touch with friends and relatives. Demographical differences regarding the uptake of Internet-based support remains, which indicates a need for research on how to bridge this digital gap. In study III, we found that a large majority preferred psychological treatment face to face whereas Internet-based interventions were reported as the preferred choice by a minority. Findings from the content analysis suggest that Internet-based interventions have specific advantages that may facilitate help-seeking among some individuals and some disadvantages that may be perceived as barriers. Initiatives to increase treatment acceptability may benefit from addressing the advantages and disadvantages reported in this study. In study IV we found that the use of the short and ultrashort tools HADS and VAS identified anxiety and depression in patients with cancer with high accuracy in comparisons with the longer instruments.In conclusion, online screening with the HADS and VAS may be a suitable initial method to identify anxiety and depression in patients with cancer. There is still a large proportion of patients who lack the interest or eHealth literacy to use health-related support on the Internet. By learning more about the barriers, use and perception of eHealth and Internet-based interventions, adequate support may be offered.