23 May 2019.

Online programs and apps can be very effective for treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety in adults, according to one of four new Evidence Check reviews recently added to the Institute’s Evidence Check Library.

The review, on evidence around prevention and early intervention for adults with mild to moderate depression, finds the strength of the evidence for online interventions indicates they can be used without assistance from a therapist in milder cases – a boon for people living in remote areas or who have difficulty accessing conventional treatments.

The review says the evidence shows the strongest beneficial effects will be seen when implementing online interventions among people who are not currently receiving any treatment, rather than people already receiving treatment through some other means. However, the review also finds some gaps in the evidence, including gaps around the effectiveness of interventions focusing on mild to moderate depression and anxiety among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and among people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.

Evidence Checks are rapid reviews of evidence commissioned by policy agencies and other health organisations. They use rigorous academic methods to find and summarise the best-quality evidence on nominated research questions. The four latest Evidence Checks on mental health issues were all commissioned by the mental health organisation Beyond Blue; the other three reviews look at depression and anxiety programs for young people, programs and services for suicide prevention, and regulations and legislation to reduce discrimination for people with depression, anxiety or suicidality.

The Evidence Check on programs for children and young people found there was high-quality evidence to support early intervention programs to prevent and treat mild depression and anxiety for this group. However, most programs were US-based, and the review’s authors recommended funding be set aside to evaluate more Australian programs in the local setting, and that Australian research agencies prioritise the evaluation of prevention programs for child and adolescent depression and anxiety.

You can access these and other Evidence Check reviews here.