Refereed review article in scientific journal (A2)

Digital Interventions for the Treatment of Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review

List of Authors: Moshe Isaac, Terhorst Yannik, Philippi Paula, Domhardt Matthias, Cuijpers Pim, Cristea Ioana, Pulkki-Råback Laura, Baumeister Harald, Sander Lasse B.


Publication year: 2021

Journal: Psychological Bulletin

Journal name in source: PSYCHOLOGICAL BULLETIN

Journal acronym: PSYCHOL BULL

Volume number: 147

Issue number: 8

Number of pages: 38

ISSN: 0033-2909

eISSN: 1939-1455


The high global prevalence of depression, together with the recent acceleration of remote care owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, has prompted increased interest in the efficacy of digital interventions for the treatment of depression. We provide a summary of the latest evidence base for digital interventions in the treatment of depression based on the largest study sample to date. A systematic literature search identified 83 studies (N = 15,530) that randomly allocated participants to a digital intervention for depression versus an active or inactive control condition. Overall heterogeneity was very high (I-2 = 84%). Using a random-effects multilevel metaregression model, we found a significant medium overall effect size of digital interventions compared with all control conditions (g = .52). Subgroup analyses revealed significant differences between interventions and different control conditions (WLC: g = .70; attention: g = .36; TAU: g = .31), significantly higher effect sizes in interventions that involved human therapeutic guidance (g = .63) compared with self-help interventions (g = .34), and significantly lower effect sizes for effectiveness trials (g = .30) compared with efficacy trials (g = .59). We found no significant difference in outcomes between smartphone-based apps and computer- and Internet-based interventions and no significant difference between human-guided digital interventions and face-to-face psychotherapy for depression, although the number of studies in both comparisons was low. Findings from the current meta-analysis provide evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of digital interventions for the treatment of depression for a variety of populations. However, reported effect sizes may be exaggerated because of publication bias, and compliance with digital interventions outside of highly controlled settings remains a significant challenge.Public Significance Statement This meta-analysis demonstrates the efficacy of digital interventions in the treatment of depression for a variety of populations. Additionally, it highlights that digital interventions may have a valuable role to play in routine care, most notably when accompanied by human guidance. However, compliance with digital interventions remains a major challenge, with little more than 50% of participants completing the full intervention on average.

Last updated on 2022-18-01 at 10:46