MCSers online: The role of online peer support for people with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS)

Dr Tarryn Philips

This project examines the experiences of people who suffer from the condition multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) and use online forums to interact with other patients. MCS has a contested cause: while most sufferers and sympathetic experts have confidence that it is a physiological condition caused by toxic exposure, the mainstream medical majority believes the cause is psychosomatic. Those who suffer from MCS often experience a condition that is extremely debilitating, as well as social stigma and marginalisation from mainstream support services. Since their reactivity often leaves them housebound, regular support groups are difficult to maintain. Therefore, online communication technology has the potential to facilitate a rare form of connectedness for this demographic.

The research was conducted through an online survey between December 2014 and April 2015. The purpose of the survey was to better understand the function and potential of online forums as a space for people with MCS to seek support and exchange information with other patients and debate the medical science behind their condition and its treatment.

186 people from around the globe responded to the survey, committing generous time and sharing very poignant stories. The results (summarised in the below report) point to the integral role that the internet now plays in the way disease is experienced and debated, particularly by those with a contested, stigmatised and isolating condition.

Key findings

See summary of results [PDF 437KB].

For further information about this project, please contact:

Dr Tarryn Phillips
Department of Social Inquiry