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The efficacy of internet interventions for depression and anxiety disorders: a review of randomised controlled trials

Kathleen M Griffiths, Louise Farrer and Helen Christensen
Med J Aust 2010; 192 (11): 4-11.

Summary

Objective: To review the outcomes, nature and quality of published randomised controlled trials of preventive and treatment internet interventions for depression and anxiety disorders, and to document the availability of effective interventions.

Data sources: Previous reviews of internet interventions for mental health and related conditions were updated using an extension of the original methodology. All studies included in the original reviews and more recent eligible trials (published before June 2009) were included, together with any trials identified from a search of the health intervention web portal Beacon and the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Study selection: A total of 29 reports describing 26 trials satisfied the inclusion criteria.

Data synthesis: All trials employed a cognitive behaviour therapy intervention program. Of the 26 trials, 23 demonstrated some evidence of effectiveness relative to controls. Effect size differences ranged from 0.42 to 0.65 for depression interventions involving participants with clinically significant symptoms of depression, and 0.29 to 1.74 for anxiety interventions involving participants with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Of the five effective English-language programs, three are available to the public without charge and two can be accessed at a small cost through health practitioner referral.

Conclusion: Internet interventions for depression and anxiety disorders offer promise for use as self-help applications for consumers or as an adjunct to usual care.

  • Kathleen M Griffiths1
  • Louise Farrer2
  • Helen Christensen3

  • Centre for Mental Health Research, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.


Acknowledgements: 

Kathleen Griffiths is supported by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Fellowship 525413, Helen Christensen is supported by NHMRC Fellowship 525411, and Louise Farrer is supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Australian Postgraduate Award (Industry) scholarship. We would like to thank Kanupriya Kalia for rating the included studies for risk of bias.

Competing interests:

Kathleen Griffiths and Helen Christensen are coauthors of several depression internet programs, including MoodGYM and BluePages.

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