A pilot study of virtual support for grief: Feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary outcomes

Lindsey M. Knowles, Eva Maria Stelzer, Krystal S. Jovel, Mary Frances O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Social support and grief education can ameliorate mental and physical health risks in widow(er)s. However, barriers often prevent older individuals from attending support groups. This controlled pilot study examined the feasibility and acceptability of an online, real-time, interactive virtual reality (VR) support group for widow(er)s, and assessed the preliminary efficacy of the VR support group for improving psychosocial outcomes and sleep quality compared to an active control grief education website. Thirty widow(er)s (Mage = 67.0, SD = 11.0) participated in an 8-week VR support group or accessed a grief education website. Participants completed self-report measures of depression, grief intensity, grief cognitions, yearning, loneliness, perceived stress and sleep quality at three time points. Participant attrition and self-report indicated that both interventions were feasible and acceptable. Both groups showed significant improvements in grief severity, grief cognitions, yearning, loneliness, perceived stress, and global sleep quality across study time points. However, only widow(er)s in the VR support group showed a significant improvement in depression across time. This study demonstrates the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary efficacy of an accessible and low-cost online support format for widow(er)s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)650-658
Number of pages9
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Avatar
  • Grief
  • Spousal loss
  • Support group
  • Virtual world
  • Web-based

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Psychology(all)


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