Online Intervention Improves Depression, Anxiety Symptoms in Young Adults

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Participants of a cognitive behavioral health-based online intervention showed reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression and high levels of satisfaction in both a routine healthcare setting and a controlled research study.

An online treatment program aimed at young adults with mood and anxiety disorders appears to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and general distress, according to article study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The Mood Mechanic Course is an internet-delivered intervention for young adults (aged 18-24 years) that provides 10- to 20-minute lessons focusing on physical and behavioral symptoms, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. Participants were young adult residents of Australia who had either participated in a randomized controlled trial conducted by the eCentreClinic in Sydney between September 2013 and April 2015 or who took the Mood Mechanic Course through MindSpot, Australia’s online mental health clinic, from January to June 2016.

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Participants received 4 lessons over the course of 5 weeks in the research trial group, and 4 lessons over the course of 8 weeks in the routine care group. Investigators used the Patient Health Questionnaire 9-Item scale to assess presence and severity of depressive symptoms, and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-Item scale to measure symptoms and severity of anxiety before treatment, weekly throughout the course, at posttreatment, and 3 months after treatment.

At posttreatment and 3-month follow-up, participants in both groups had symptom reductions on all assessments as well as symptom improvements from before treatment to posttreatment and from before treatment to 3 months after treatment (Ps <.001). Both groups also had low deterioration rates (3.6% on the Patient Health Questionnaire and 1.4% in the research trial group; 2.6% and 1.8% on the Generalized Anxiety Disorder, respectively). Patients in routine care were less likely to complete posttreatment or follow-up symptom questionnaires, but both groups reported high rates of treatment satisfaction.

Results were limited by self-reported data and lack of a control group in the routine care group. Because participants were mostly female, actively seeking treatment, and motivated to start online treatment lessons, the results may not be generalizable to other populations.

“Overall, the results of this study support the routine provision of [internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy] to young adults with symptoms of anxiety and depression,” the investigators concluded.

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Staples LG, Dear BF, Johnson B, et al. Internet-delivered treatment for young adults with anxiety and depression: evaluation in routine clinical care and comparison with research trial outcomes. J Affect Disord. 2019;256:103-109.