A new study shows that participating in online forums can positively impact your life.

The study split forum users into two categories: stigmatized subjects (like mental health discussions), and non-stigmatized subjects (like cooking, fitness, etc.). The group members were asked why they joined the forum, how they felt about it, how satisfied in life they felt, and the nature of their offline engagement with the forum’s subject matter.

Especially in cases where users sought support or information regarding stigmatized matters, users benefited greatly from consulting online forums. Because forums allow for anonymity - unlike social media that require usernames and profile pictures - many felt encouraged to participate in discussions they might otherwise shy away from if their identities were known.

Highly participatory users of both categories were also most likely to apply their enthusiasm to the offline world - whether in the form of volunteering, donating, or campaigning.