Digital cognitive behavioral therapy tool improved symptoms of anxiety, depression

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Disclosures:
Venkatesan and colleagues are either current or former employees of Vida Health and hold share options with Vida.


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Use of a cognitive behavioral therapy-based digital mental health intervention led to significant improvement in anxiety and depression symptoms after 12 weeks, per results of a study published in Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“It has been estimated from nationally representative surveys that the prevalence of depressive symptoms in the United States increased 3-fold during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Aarathi Venkatesan, PhD, vice president, health economics and outcomes research at Vida Health, and colleagues wrote. “Digital mental health interventions are potentially scalable and effective treatment solutions for mental health.”



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Venkatesan and fellow researchers sought to examine the effectiveness of an app-based CBT program to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, which include those with comorbidities including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The single-arm retrospective study included 1,512 participants aged 18 years or older, recruited between September 2019 and January 2021, who were diagnosed with at least moderate depression and had access to a smartphone or tablet. The program included structured lessons as well as exercises and practices. Participants also had one-on-one weekly video counseling sessions with a licensed therapist for 12 weeks, with monthly sessions as follow up.

Assessments were undertaken within the app at baseline, week 6 and week 12, and then every three months for up to 1 year. Levels of depression and anxiety were measured through the 8-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8) and the 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale.

The treatment cohort consisted of 831 (54.96%) participants who completed a follow-up assessment. Linear mixed-effects modeling was employed to examine changes in depression and anxiety over time, and body weight changes from baseline were assessed primarily with digitally connected scales.

Results showed that 74.5% (n=619) in the treatment cohort showed a clinically significant reduction in depressive symptom severity after 12 weeks, where follow-up PHQ-8 scores had shifted downward by at least one diagnostic category. In total, 67.5% (n=561) of participants showed a reliable improvement in PHQ-8 scores as measured by the reliable change index.

Data also revealed that greater program usage was correlated with greater likelihood of reliable improvement in depressive symptoms (odds ratio, 1.3; 95% CI 1.1-1.5). Exploratory analysis of body weight changes with a multilevel, mixed-effect model suggested that reliable improvement in depressive symptoms at follow-up was associated with significantly greater weight loss at 9 months (beta = –1.11).

“Over the past several years we’ve made tremendous progress in how we treat — and how society views — mental health ailments,” Patrick Carroll, MD, chief medical officer for Vida Health, said in a release which accompanied the study. “For those suffering from anxiety and depression, virtual mental health care offers immediate access to high-quality care, often at a more affordable price than brick-and-mortar solutions.”

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