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Promising results for online depression therapy

Australian National University researchers say online interventions can have important flow on effects to a patient’s quality of life and physical health.

Online depression therapy programs can have a positive impact on more than just depressive symptoms, according to a new study.

Dr Lou Farrer, from the ANU Centre for Mental Health Research, trialled the effectiveness of online programs MoodGYM and BluePages with users of Lifeline’s telephone crisis line.

She found that the online programs had a positive influence across a range of problems, such as alcohol use.

“In addition to reducing depression symptoms, we found that the online programs were effective in reducing hazardous alcohol use in Lifeline callers. There was a significant drop in alcohol use among those who used MoodGYM and BluePages,” she said.

“The results also showed that people who used the online programs had a marked increase in their quality of life, as measured by a scale that assessed satisfaction with different areas of daily living.”

We also found that after treatment, people’s knowledge of depression increased. This is essential to enable people to be able to better understand and recognise the signs and symptoms of future depressive episodes.”

Farrer said that these results follow on from her original study published in 2011, which showed that the use of online programs for Lifeline callers was effective in reducing symptoms of depression.

“We worked with Lifeline centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. Lifeline telephone crisis supporters identified callers who seemed to be experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. These people were then split into different groups who were asked to complete different programs using online intervention tools.”

Farrer said that these results showed that depression treatments can have important flow on effects.

“We didn’t expect these results, as the programs are designed specifically to treat depression.  It’s exciting to see that by alleviating depression, these programs may also be helpful in improving how people function in their day-to-day lives,” she said.

“What we need now is funding to roll these programs out into Lifeline on a more permanent basis so that callers can benefit.”

The research was recently published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
MoodGym and BluePages are free online depression treatment programs developed and managed by ANU.

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