Web-based CBT Reduces Depression When Heart Disease

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Swedish researchers have developed an online treatment for depression among people with cardiovascular disease. They found that internet-based therapy helped people living with heart disease manage their depression. After the therapy, individuals became less depressed and gained a better quality of life.

The finding is important as cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the most common chronic disease, and patients often suffer from depression. This can lead to a vicious circle where the depression has negative effects on the CVD. Therefore, it is important that the depression is treated.

Study results have been published in JMIR Mental Health.

“Our study shows that internet-based therapy can reduce depression and improve quality of life among CVD patients. Because of insufficient resources, all CVD patients don’t get the required care against depression, and so internet-based therapy can play an important role. Also, the patients can undergo therapy at home, at a time that suits them,” says Peter Johansson, professor of Social and Welfare Studies at Linköping University.

A number of previous studies have shown that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy is effective against depression, but this study is the first to be designed specifically for CVD patients with depression.

The study was carefully crafted as a randomized controlled trial, where the participants were randomly put into different groups, to enable comparison with each other. The participants included 144 CVD patients with depression.

Of these, 72 underwent nine weeks of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy, and during this time had access to a nurse. The remaining 72 discussed health with each other in an internet forum for the same period of time.

The results show that after nine weeks of online therapy, 20% of patients had a significant clinical improvement in their depression compared to the group in the internet forum. Also, after the completed treatment, the online-therapy patients reported an increase in quality of life.

“The strength of our study is that the patients had access to nurses via the web — a contact that was crucial to the good result”, says Peter Johansson.

The patients who underwent online CBT had an average of 15 minutes of feedback time every week with one of the nurses; this was not available to the patients in the online forum. The feedback time enabled the patients to get answers to their questions, but was also aimed at supporting and encouraging them.

Source: Linköping University

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