Above: Sydney University Professor Nick Glozier from the university’s Brain and Mind Institute
A free online program targeting mood problems is leading to overall health improvements for people with both depression and cardio vascular disease, University of Sydney researchers have found.
The study, which was recently published in Plos One, investigated the effectiveness of the program e-couch, which is made up of 12 modules of psychoeducation, cognitive behaviour therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy techniques.
It found that participants with both a mood problem and cardio vascular disease had a 40 per cent improvement in their overall health and were 40 less likely to be depressed at the end of the program, an outcome better than those just receiving health and lifestyle advice.
Lead author of the study, Professor Nick Glozier from Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Research Institute said people with both depression and cardiovascular disease had poorer health outcomes because they exercised less and were less likely to follow medical treatments.
“Our study shows that for people with mild to moderate depression and physical health problems, online interventions targeting mood problems are more effective at improving psychological health and some aspects of physical health than health and lifestyle advice alone.”
Cardiovascular disease and depression are the two leading causes of disease burden in high income countries like Australia, he said.
E-couch had already proved effective against depression in younger people without other health problems.
It is a self-help interactive program providing evidence-based information and teaches strategies drawn from cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal therapies as well as relaxation and physical activity, according to the program’s website.
The program includes modules for depression, generalised anxiety and worry, social anxiety, relationship breakdown, and loss & grief.
This study involved 562 participants. It compared the health outcomes of people who used e-couch with those who used an online program which gave healthy lifestyle information about depression, nutrition, physical activity, blood pressure and cholesterol and heart health.
In addition to improved health outcomes and a decreased prevalence of depression among e-couch participants, there were similar improvements with anxiety and participants sticking with a medication and healthy lifestyle, the researchers found.
With more than 8000 people using the online program every month nationally, the findings have a far-reaching impact, Prof Glozier said.
Access the research paper here.
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