Original article no longer available
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Internet helps lift depression in the long run: study
People who turn to websites to help treat their depression enjoy surprising long-term health benefits, a new report indicates.
The report, by the Australian National University’s Centre for Mental Health Research, found that cognitive behaviour therapy websites, as well as information sites for those suffering from depression, had a significant positive effect on users after a year.
The findings come in the wake of a UK-based study into the effects of new generation anti-depressant drugs which found that only the most severely depressed of patients were being helped by the medicine.
Centre deputy director Professor Andrew Mackinnon said the study showed websites could be useful for patients who had finished drug or therapist treatment.
“If you have severe depression then medical treatment is good, but the issue is what happens when you stop visiting the therapist or taking your medication,” he said.
“We’ve found that the CBT and depression information websites we studied have ongoing benefits that persist over a year.”
The results suggested that people might prefer being able to access information and therapy in their own time over using the services of a therapist, he said.
“Just as some people prefer to use Internet banking over queuing in a bank, some people may prefer to receive their help on the Internet,” the professor said.
“In addition to the convenience and accessibility of the Internet, many people still attach significant stigma to mental health issues and seeking help.”
The study has been published in the February issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
The study looked at two ANU depression websites – MoodGYM, a CBT resource and Bluepages which offers depression information. Some 525 people living with depression in the community were involved and monitored over the course of a year.
Professor Mackinnon said that future research should look at the ways in which these self-managed early intervention programs compare with conventional drug treatment or psychotherapy for depression, as well as determining which aspects of the online interventions are associated with better health outcomes.