People suffering from cardiovascular disease (CVD) often suffer from depression too- something that can lead to a vicious cycle in which CVD can be negatively affected. To resolve this issue, researchers from Linkoping University, Sweden, developed an online treatment option for depression among people suffering from cardiovascular disease.
Peter Johansson, professor at the Department of Social and Welfare Studies at Linkoping University said, “Our study shows that internet-based therapy can reduce depression and improve quality of life among CVD patients. Because of insufficient resources, all CVD patients don’t get the required care against depression, and internet-based therapy can play an important role. Also, the patients can undergo therapy at home, at a time that suits them.”
Although many previous studies have shown that internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is effective at combating depression, Johansson’s study as the first of its kind looking at online CBT specifically for those suffering from CVD.
For the study, Johansson and his team recruited 144 patients with CVD and depression. Then, under randomized, controlled conditions, 72 underwent nine weeks of internet-based CBT with a trained therapist. During this period, each patient in this group also had an average of 15 minutes feedback time per week with a nurse to ensure any questions they had on their treatment could be answered, as well as to receive encouragement to continue.
Meanwhile, the other 72 patients in the study were asked to discuss health issues amongst each other in an internet forum, also for nine weeks. Unlike the CBT group however, they did not have access to a nurse to discuss any issues and problems, nor to receive encouragement.
In the end, the researchers results demonstrated that among those who received online therapy, 20% saw significant improvements in their depressive symptoms when compared to those in the internet forum group. Furthermore, those who underwent online therapy reported overall increases increases in quality of life when compared to those only on forums.
Johansson added. “The strength of our study is that the patients had access to nurses via the web – a contact that was crucial to the good result.”