Are web-based stress management interventions effective against depression?

Question: Depression is very common and has many negative effects on people and society. Because not many people seek direct treatment for depression, researchers are looking at ways to treat related but less stigmatized issues, like stress.

This study looks at whether a web-based stress management program can help treat depression indirectly.

Study Selection and Analysis: Researchers used a special statistical method to combine data from different studies to see if the web-based program reduces depression symptoms. They also looked at how the number of sessions completed affected outcomes and whether having a guide (a person to help) made a difference.

Findings: A total of 1,235 patients with clinical depression from six different studies were included. The program showed a moderate to large reduction in depression symptoms seven weeks after starting (with a measure of d=-0.65) and these effects lasted for three months (d=-0.74). The more sessions participants completed, the better their symptoms improved. The additional benefit of having a guide was small (d=-0.25), and there was a 35% chance that guided and unguided formats worked equally well.

Conclusions: The results suggest that web-based stress management can help treat depression indirectly, with similar effectiveness to direct treatments. More research is needed to see if this approach can increase the use of effective treatments and to confirm the benefits of having human guidance.

Full text: Harrer M, Nixon P, Sprenger AA, et al. Are web-based stress management interventions effective as an indirect treatment for depression? An individual participant data meta-analysis of six randomised trials. BMJ Ment Health 2024;27:e300846.

Keywords: Web-based interventions, stress management, depression treatment, indirect treatment, mental health, online therapy, meta-analysis, individual participant data, randomized controlled trials, digital health, mental health interventions, psychological interventions, perceived stress, depression symptoms, clinical depression, digital interventions, Bayesian analysis, depression severity, mental health stigma, evidence-based treatment, stress reduction, depression prevention, online stress management, cognitive behavioral therapy, depression management, internet-based therapy, treatment effectiveness, psychological well-being, mental health outcomes, digital mental health, self-help interventions, online mental health, depression improvement, mental health research, digital therapeutics, stress and depression, health psychology, depression scale, therapeutic efficacy, online interventions, patient data meta-analysis, digital health tools, depression interventions, psychological stress, web therapy, online mental health programs, depression and stress, treatment utilization, guided therapy, mental health support.