Arthritis & Rheumatism, Volume 62,
November 2010 Abstract Supplement

Abstracts of the American College of
Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals
Annual Scientific Meeting
Atlanta, Georgia November 6-11, 2010.

Follow-Up Survey on Adolescent Rheumatology Patients' Online Activities and Social Support Systems: Opportunities for Transition Program Development.

Chira,  Peter


To evaluate current trends of social support systems and online behaviors of teen patients attending Stanford pediatric rheumatology clinic at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital (LPCH) and to assess opportunities for a transition intervention


We administered a written survey to consecutive teen rheumatology patients ages 13–22 during routine LPCH rheumatology clinic visits from April-June 2010. Informed consent and assent were obtained from parents (and participants >=18) and teens <18, respectively. Stanford University's IRB approved the study. The survey is based on one administered in 2003. Descriptive statistics are presented. Trends are compared between surveys.


120 patients completed the survey (Table 1). Most have discussed their disorder with another, typically parent (95%) or friend (81%); few had spoken to a peer with a similar rheumatic disease (22%), and this is an increase from 2003. Computer and internet use are pervasive: 89% use email but only 38% check daily, and 74% use social networking sites, with 54% checking daily. Online communications such as chat room and IM are used less often than in 2003 (16%, 51% vs 33%, 69%, respectively), with a drop in daily IM from 33% to 24%. 90% have cellphones, and calling (87%), texting (78%), and taking pictures (73%) are the most common uses. 44% send >50 text messages daily.

Teens go online to learn about their rheumatic condition more frequently than in 2003 (73% vs 44%) but still seek a reliable website to find this information as well as an online personal record of their own medical/health information (83% and 80%).

Table 1. Teen Patient Characteristics, Computer and Internet Use, Social Support Systems

 2010 survey (N = 120) n%2003 survey (N = 101) n% 
 Male 29.22827.8
 Years (Mean, S.D)17.0 ± 2.115.7 ± 2.3
 Asian-American/ Pacific Islander2621.72322.8
 Multi-racial, other1613.31918.8
 Other (includes vasculitis, JDM, systemic sclerosis, MCTD)3025.03635.7
Media use     
 Home computer11394.29493.1
 Internet access (any source)11696.79291.1
 Home computer internet access10486.78180.2
 Cellphone internet access4235.055.0
 Looked up condition online8772.54746.5
 Looked up any teen issues online3831.71211.9
Social support     
 Spoken about illness with someone11797.59493.1
 Want to meet peers with condition7461.77978.2
 Want online contact with peers7562.58988.1


The Pew Survey on Social Media in Young Adults in March 2010 revealed changing trends of teen internet practices. Our survey demonstrates that teen rheumatology patients have similar online habits, but they are more likely to go online for health information and for sensitive teen topics than the general adolescent population. We note increasing use of cellphones for communication and internet access, which have affected other interactive online modalities. Interest in online meetings with teens with similar conditions is declining, but our teens prefer website development and tools to collect their personal health information that also can be a reliable resource for medical information about their condition. While many teens commonly use online social networking sites, overall interest of their use as a social support resource may be limited.


Technology and social media use by teens with rheumatic diseases are evolving and follow the general young adult population. Further development of programs, especially those using mobile technologies such as cellphones, will help teens to learn about and track their rheumatic conditions, as well as to assist in peer communication– all potential opportunities in the creation of a teen transition program.

To cite this abstract, please use the following information:
Chira, Peter; Follow-Up Survey on Adolescent Rheumatology Patients' Online Activities and Social Support Systems: Opportunities for Transition Program Development. [abstract]. Arthritis Rheum 2010;62 Suppl 10 :1409
DOI: 10.1002/art.29175

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