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A randomised controlled trial of online support groups for depression and anxiety

Dean, J; Potts, H; Barker, C; A randomised controlled trial of online support groups for depression and anxiety. In: (Proceedings) British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2012. (pp. 50 - 50).

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Objectives: Online peer-led support groups for psychological problems are ubiquitous on the internet. This paper examines whether online support groups (OSGs) for depression and anxiety are beneficial. The hypothesis is that OSGs are effective in ameliorating depression and anxiety and increasing perceived social support. Design: Six-month, randomised controlled trial with participants randomised to either: (1) an online support group; or (2) an online expressive writing task. Methods: 863 participants (628 female) UK and US volunteers were recruited via the internet. 568 were randomised to the OSG condition (at six months 103, 82 per cent attrition) and 295 randomised to the expressive writing condition (at six months: 101, 65 per cent attrition). Standard measures (depression, anxiety, social support and satisfaction with life) were administered at intake, three months and six months. Results: Both groups improved on all measures, but there were few differences between conditions. The effect sizes (for time main effect, baseline to six months) were d=0.63 for depression and d=0.46 for anxiety. Conclusion: As there was little difference in outcome between the online support and expressive writing conditions it was difficult to draw definite conclusions, but both conditions appeared to be beneficial. However, participants reported that the expressive writing was highly acceptable but there was very mixed and often negative feedback for the OSG. As a result there was higher attrition and less adherence in the OSG.

Type:Proceedings paper
Title:A randomised controlled trial of online support groups for depression and anxiety
Event:British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2012
Dates:2012-03-18 - 2012-03-20
Publisher version:http://abstracts.bps.org.uk/index.cfm?&ResultsType=Abstracts&ResultSet_ID=7846&FormDisplayMode=view&frmShowSelected=true&localAction=details
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care > CHIME

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