The study, in which a total of 10,000 people from 11 countries participated, has been published in the scientific journal ‘Clinical Psychology Review‘.
A team of researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Research of Malaga (IBIMA), belonging to the Research Network on Prevention and Health Promotion (RedIAPP), have coordinated a study in which they combined the results of 21 trials involving a total of 10,134 patients from 11 different countries, with a representation of all ages. This group, in turn, is part of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII) and is active in the Malaga-Guadalhorce Health District.
In this meta-analysis – a type of study that combines the results of a set of trials – most of the preventive programmes evaluated incorporated psychological and educational interventions through internet-connected devices, such as mobile phones, tablets or computers. Programmes that applied more interaction (e.g. asking the patient to respond to tasks) were more effective than those that simply sent advice. Taken together, all these preventive programmes applied through new technologies prevented the onset of 37% of new episodes of depression.
Juan Ángel Bellón, researcher in charge of the ‘Mental Health, Services and Primary Care (SAMSERAP)‘ group at IBIMA and coordinator of the Mental Health Area of RedIAPP, stressed that “a very interesting finding is that there were no significant differences in effectiveness between the internet-based programmes whose users received some kind of support or follow-up by mental health professionals and those that did not have this support, i.e. guided versus self-guided programmes, respectively”.
Bellón himself, who is also a family doctor at the ‘El Palo’ Health Centre in the city of Malaga and a lecturer in the Department of Public Health and Psychiatry at the University of Malaga (UMA), stressed that this study is “very important if we take into account that in Spain there are two and a half million cases of depression in a year, with one million cases of new onset depression”.
In addition, the nature of this study seeks to have an impact on an aspect such as the prevention of depression, something which, in the words of the study coordinator, “to a certain extent we could talk about ‘vaccines against depression‘, that is, interventions that prevent depression from starting”. In this sense, he mentioned that if this type of preventive programmes for depression were implemented on a massive scale in the population, up to 400,000 new depressions could be avoided annually at a national level, which would have “a great positive impact in health terms by improving the quality of life of patients and their families, as well as in economic terms as it is a pathology that affects the working-age population, as well as entailing less expenditure for the health system”, he added.
On the other hand, this study is on the rise at a time when the market for technological devices such as smartphones and tablets are within the reach of the majority of the population; something that has increased over the last year as a result of changes in habits, due to the current health crisis by the COVID-19, where social interactions through new technologies have increased.
In addition to IBIMA, REDIAPP and ISCIII, the Loyola University (Seville campus), the Health Research Institute of Aragon and the University of Amsterdam have also participated in this meta-analysis.
At the moment the IBIMA research group ‘Mental Health, Services and Primary Care (SAMSERAP) is coordinating a completely new clinical trial, different from the other 21 trials included in this meta-analysis, hoping that anyone interested can participate by going to the website https://epdwork.org, downloading the mobile application available “e-pD-WORK” through Android or Apple.