Effectiveness of a Web-Based Intervention in Reducing Depression and Sickness Absence: Randomized Controlled Trial

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Background: Depression is highly prevalent in the working population and is associated with significant loss of workdays; however, access to evidence-based treatment is limited. Objective: This study evaluated the effectiveness of a Web-based intervention in reducing mild to moderate depression and sickness absence. Methods: In an open-label randomized controlled trial, participants were recruited from a large-scale statutory health insurance and were assigned to two groups. The intervention group had access to a 12 week Web-based program consisting of structured interactive sessions and therapist support upon request. The wait-list control group had access to unguided Web-based psycho-education. Depressive symptoms were self-assessed at baseline, post-treatment, and follow-up (12 weeks after treatment) using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) as primary outcome measures. Data on sickness absence was retrieved from health insurance records. Intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis and per-protocol (PP) analysis were performed. Results: Of the 180 participants who were randomized, 88 completed the post-assessment (retention rate: 48.8%, 88/180). ITT analysis showed a significant between-group difference in depressive symptoms during post-treatment in favor of the intervention group, corresponding to a moderate effect size (PHQ-9: d=0.55, 95% CI 0.25-0.85, P<.001, and BDI-II: d=0.41, CI 0.11-0.70, P=.004). PP analysis partially supported this result, but showed a non-significant effect on one primary outcome (PHQ-9: d=0.61, 95% CI 0.15-1.07, P=.04, and BDI-II: d=0.25 95% CI -0.18 to 0.65, P=.37). Analysis of clinical significance using reliable change index revealed that significantly more participants who used the Web-based intervention (63%, 63/100) responded to the treatment versus the control group (33%, 27/80; P<.001). The number needed to treat (NNT) was 4.08. Within both groups, there was a reduction in work absence frequency (IG: -67.23%, P<.001, CG: -82.61%, P<.001), but no statistical difference in sickness absence between groups was found (P=.07). Conclusions: The Web-based intervention was effective in reducing depressive symptoms among adults with sickness absence. As this trial achieved a lower power than calculated, its results should be replicated in a larger sample. Further validation of health insurance records as an outcome measure for eHealth trials is needed.

ZeitschriftJournal of Medical Internet Research
Anzahl der Seiten14
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 15.06.2017