Research evidence for e-hub programs
MoodGYM has been shown to be effective in reducing depressive and anxiety symptoms in users in a large number of published research trials undertaken by research groups within and outside of Australia. These include studies: in a range of settings (e.g., schools, universities, Lifeline, NHS Choices online); across the mental health care spectrum (from prevention to treatment); with different age groups (adults, adolescents); with a range of population groups (e.g. students, primary care patients, community users); in different countries; and with and without guidance.
Studies have also reported MoodGYM to be effective in reducing hazardous alcohol use, and in improving wellbeing and quality of life in users. User satisfaction of MoodGYM is high, and evaluation studies suggest that MoodGYM is a viable option for those who cannot access face-to-face therapy, and for those waiting for traditional services. There is also demonstrated cost effectiveness of translating MoodGYM, which currently operates in five languages.
In 2003, BluePages and MoodGYM were evaluated for effectiveness through a large randomised controlled trial known as the BlueMood trial. Both sites were found to be effective in lowering mental health symptoms of anxiety and depression after a six-week intervention, and that BluePages results in lowered stigma. In 2004, it was confirmed that these reductions persist at six months.
In 2012, a study of a closed Internet Support Group (similar to BlueBoard) was undertaken as part of the ANU WellBeing study. The Internet Support Group was found to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms after 6 and 12 months, when used alone or in combination with an automated Internet-based psychotherapy program.
A 2014 study showed further benefits, in addition to reduction of depressive symptoms. In this study, improvements in self-esteem and empowerment were demonstrated, as well as perceived quality of life at 6-month follow-up. Findings suggest that a combination of an internet support group such as BlueBoard with a psycho-education program such as e-couch, is more beneficial than a psycho-education internet program alone.
The e-couch Depression, Anxiety & Worry, and Social Anxiety programs have been evaluated in a number of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) conducted by the ANU, collaborating institutions, and independent researchers.
e-couch Depression program:
A 2012 RCT showed that the e-couch Depression program yielded a greater reduction in depressive symptoms immediately post-test than an attention control, with the combination of e-couch and an online support group showing longer term positive outcomes for participants. The e-couch CBT and IPT depression toolkits have also been shown to be as effective as MoodGYM in a 2013 equivalence trial undertaken among spontaneous community users. All groups showed moderate to large within-groups effect sizes for reduction in depression symptoms. The e-couch Depression program has also been demonstrated effective in the reduction of depressive symptoms in people aged 45 years or more with a history of, or risks for, cardiovascular disease, compared to an attention placebo control.
e-couch Anxiety and Worry program:
The e-couch Anxiety and Worry program has recently been trialled as a preventive program for young people in the community (the iChill trial). This study found that when combined with email reminders, e-couch significantly decreased sensitivity to anxiety and ‘number of days out of role’ for participants, at least 12 months after using the program. The e-couch Anxiety and Worry program is also currently being evaluated in a clustered randomised controlled trial as a preventive program in Australian schools.
e-couch Social Anxiety program:
The e-couch Social Anxiety program has been demonstrated effective by an independent UK group. The 2012 study showed that the e-couch Social Anxiety program significantly reduced levels of social anxiety and depression in participants with high social anxiety.
An overview of the Beacon web portal has been published in the Medical Journal of Australia.