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In the 1950s, Eysenck suggested that psychotherapies may not be effective at all. Twenty-five years later, the first meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials showed that the effects of psychotherapies were considerable and that Eysenck was wrong. However, since that time methods have become available to assess biases in meta-analyses.
We examined the influence of these biases on the effects of psychotherapies for adult depression, including risk of bias, publication bias and the exclusion of waiting list control groups.
The unadjusted effect size of psychotherapies compared with control groups was g = 0.70 (limited to Western countries: g = 0.63), which corresponds to a number-needed-to-treat of 4.18. Only 23% of the studies could be considered as a low risk of bias. When adjusting for several sources of bias, the effect size across all types of therapies dropped to g = 0.31.
These results suggest that the effects of psychotherapy for depression are small, above the threshold that has been suggested as the minimal important difference in the treatment of depression, and Eysenck was probably wrong. However, this is still not certain because we could not adjust for all types of bias. Unadjusted meta-analyses of psychotherapies overestimate the effects considerably, and for several types of psychotherapy for adult depression, insufficient evidence is available that they are effective because too few low-risk studies were available, including problem-solving therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and behavioural activation.
The aim of this systematic review of economic evaluations alongside randomised controlled trials (RCTs) was to provide a comprehensive overview of the evidence concerning cost-effectiveness analyses of common treatment options for major depression.
An existing database was used to identify studies reporting cost-effectiveness results from RCTs. This database has been developed by a systematic literature search in the bibliographic databases of PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase and Cochrane library from database inception to December 2014. We evaluated the quality of economic evaluations using a 10-item short version of the Drummond checklist. Results were synthesised narratively. The risk of bias of the included RCTs was assessed, based on the Cochrane risk of bias assessment tool.
Fourteen RCTs were included from the 5580 articles screened on titles and abstracts. The methodological quality of the health economic evaluations was relatively high and the majority of the included RCTs had low risk of bias in most of Cochrane items except blinding of participants and personnel. Cognitive behavioural therapy was examined in seven trials as part of a variety of treatment protocols and seems cost-effective compared with pharmacotherapy in the long-term. However cost-effectiveness results for the combination of psychotherapy with pharmacotherapy are conflicting and should be interpreted with caution due to limited comparability between the examined trials. For several treatments, only a single economic evaluation was reported as part of a clinical trial. This was the case for comparisons between different classes of antidepressants, for several types of psychotherapy (behavioural activation, occupational therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, short-term psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, rational emotive behavioural therapy, solution focused therapy), and for transcranial magnetic stimulation v. electroconvulsive therapy. The limited evidence base for these interventions means generalisations, based on economic evaluation alongside clinical trials, cannot easily be made.
There is some economic evidence underpinning many of the common treatment options for major depression. Wide variability was observed in study outcomes, probably attributable to differences in population, interventions or follow-up periods. For many interventions, only a single economic evaluation alongside clinical trials was identified. Thus, significant economic evidence gaps remain in the area of major depressive disorder.
Randomized trials with antidepressants are often run under double blind placebo-controlled conditions, whereas those with psychotherapies are mostly unblinded. This can introduce bias in favor of psychotherapy when the treatments are directly compared. In this meta-analysis, we examine this potential source of bias.
We searched Pubmed, PsycInfo, Embase and the Cochrane database (1966 to January 2014) by combining terms indicative of psychological treatment and depression, and limited to randomized trials. We included 35 trials (with 3721 patients) in which psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy for adult depression were directly compared with each other. We calculated effect sizes for each study indicating the difference between psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy at post-test. Then, we examined the difference between studies with a placebo condition and those without in moderator analyses.
We did not find a significant difference between the studies with and those without a placebo condition. The studies in which a placebo condition was included indicated no significant difference between psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy (g = −0.07; NNT = 25). Studies in which no placebo condition was included (and patients and clinicians in both conditions were not blinded), resulted in a small, but significant difference between psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy in favor of pharmacotherapy (g = −0.13; NNT = 14).
Studies comparing psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy in which both groups of patients (and therapists) are not blinded (no placebo condition is included) result in a very small, but significantly higher effect for pharmacotherapy.
It is well known that web-based interventions can be effective treatments for depression. However, dropout rates in web-based interventions are typically high, especially in self-guided web-based interventions. Rigorous empirical evidence regarding factors influencing dropout in self-guided web-based interventions is lacking due to small study sample sizes. In this paper we examined predictors of dropout in an individual patient data meta-analysis to gain a better understanding of who may benefit from these interventions.
A comprehensive literature search for all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of psychotherapy for adults with depression from 2006 to January 2013 was conducted. Next, we approached authors to collect the primary data of the selected studies. Predictors of dropout, such as socio-demographic, clinical, and intervention characteristics were examined.
Data from 2705 participants across ten RCTs of self-guided web-based interventions for depression were analysed. The multivariate analysis indicated that male gender [relative risk (RR) 1.08], lower educational level (primary education, RR 1.26) and co-morbid anxiety symptoms (RR 1.18) significantly increased the risk of dropping out, while for every additional 4 years of age, the risk of dropping out significantly decreased (RR 0.94).
Dropout can be predicted by several variables and is not randomly distributed. This knowledge may inform tailoring of online self-help interventions to prevent dropout in identified groups at risk.
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