Background and Aim: Mild to moderate depression is common in those with cardiovascular disease and undertreated. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (iCBT) on depressive symptom severity and adherence to medical advice and lifestyle interventions in adults with mild to moderate depression and high cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks.
Methods: Randomised double-blind, 12 week attention-controlled trial comparing an iCBT programme (E-couch) with an internet-delivered attention control health information package (HealthWatch, n = 282). The primary outcome was depression symptom level on the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) (trial registration: ACTRN12610000085077).
Results; 487/562 (88%) participants completed the endpoint assessment. 383/562 (70%) were currently treated for cardiovascular disease and 314/562 (56%) had at least one other comorbid condition. In ITT analysis of 562 participants iCBT produced a greater decline in the mean PHQ-9 score compared to the attention control of 1.06 (95% CI: 0.23–1.89) points, with differences between the two arms increasing over the intervention period (time by treatment effect interaction p = .012). There were also larger improvements in adherence (2.16 points; 95% CI: 0.33–3.99), reductions in anxiety (0.96 points; 95% CI: 0.19–1.73), and a greater proportion engaging in beneficial physical activity (Odds Ratio 1.91, 95%CI: 1.01–3.61) in the iCBT participants but no effect upon disability, or walking time/day. There were no withdrawals due to study related adverse events.
Conclusions: In people with mild to moderate depression and high levels of CVD risk factors, a freely accessible iCBT programme (http://www.ecouch.anu.edu.au) produced a small, but robust, improvement in depressive symptoms, adherence and some health behaviours.
Trial Registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000085077