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Problem-solving therapy (PST) is one of the best examined types of psychotherapy for adult depression. No recent meta-analysis has examined the effects of PST compared to control groups or to other treatments. We wanted to verify whether PST is effective, whether effects are comparable to those of other treatments, and whether we could identify the possible sources of high heterogeneity that was found in earlier meta-analyses.
We conducted systematic searches in bibliographical databases, including PubMed, PsycInfo, Embase and the Cochrane database of randomized trials.
We included 30 randomized controlled trials on PST (with 3530 patients), in which PST was compared to control conditions, with other therapies, and with pharmacotherapy. We could compare these 30 trials on PST also with 259 trials on other psychotherapies for adult depression. The effect size of PST versus control groups was g = 0.79 (0.57–1.01) with very high heterogeneity (I2 = 84; 95% CI: 77–88). The effect size from the 9 studies with low risk of bias was g = 0.34 (95% CI: 0.22–0.46) with low heterogeneity (I2 = 32; 95% CI: 0–68), which is comparable to the effects of other psychotherapies. PST was a little more effective than other therapies in direct comparisons, but that may be explained by the considerable number of studies with researcher allegiance towards PST. In meta-regression analyses of all controlled studies, no significant difference between PST and other therapies was found.
PST is probably an effective treatment for depression, with effect sizes that are small, but comparable to those found for other psychological treatments of depression.
Little is known about potential harmful effects as a consequence of self-guided internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy (iCBT), such as symptom deterioration rates. Thus, safety concerns remain and hamper the implementation of self-guided iCBT into clinical practice. We aimed to conduct an individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis to determine the prevalence of clinically significant deterioration (symptom worsening) in adults with depressive symptoms who received self-guided iCBT compared with control conditions. Several socio-demographic, clinical and study-level variables were tested as potential moderators of deterioration.
Randomised controlled trials that reported results of self-guided iCBT compared with control conditions in adults with symptoms of depression were selected. Mixed effects models with participants nested within studies were used to examine possible clinically significant deterioration rates.
Thirteen out of 16 eligible trials were included in the present IPD meta-analysis. Of the 3805 participants analysed, 7.2% showed clinically significant deterioration (5.8% and 9.1% of participants in the intervention and control groups, respectively). Participants in self-guided iCBT were less likely to deteriorate (OR 0.62, p < 0.001) compared with control conditions. None of the examined participant- and study-level moderators were significantly associated with deterioration rates.
Self-guided iCBT has a lower rate of negative outcomes on symptoms than control conditions and could be a first step treatment approach for adult depression as well as an alternative to watchful waiting in general practice.
More than half of patients who present with depressive disorders also have elevated comorbid anxiety symptoms. Given the high comorbidity between these disorders, it is important to understand the extent that psychotherapies for depression additionally ameliorate symptoms of anxiety.
Systematic searches were conducted in PubMed, PSYCinfo, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Registry of Controlled Trials. Included studies were randomized controlled trials that compared psychotherapy compared with a control condition for the treatment of adults with a primary diagnosis or elevated symptoms of depression and that examined the effects of treatment on anxiety outcomes. Acute phase depression and anxiety (continuous measure) outcomes were extracted. Effect sizes were calculated by subtracting the average post-treatment scores of the psychotherapy group from the average post-treatment scores of the comparison group divided by the pooled standard deviation.
Fifty-two studies of varying quality met the inclusion criteria. Pooled effect sizes showed that anxiety outcomes were significantly lower in the psychotherapy conditions than in control conditions at post-treatment [g = 0.52; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.44–0.60; NNT (numbers-needed-to-treat) = 3.50]. Moderate heterogeneity was observed (I2 = 55%, 95% CI 40–66). Bivariate metaregression analysis revealed a significant association between depression and anxiety effect sizes at post-treatment Longer-term follow-ups of up to 14 months post-baseline showed indications for a small lasting effect of psychotherapy on anxiety outcomes (g = 0.27).
This meta-analysis provides evidence that psychotherapy aimed at depression can also reduce anxiety symptoms in relation to control conditions.
Several meta-analyses have shown that psychotherapy is effective for
reducing depressive symptom severity. However, the impact on quality of
life (QoL) is as yet unknown.
To investigate the effectiveness of psychotherapy for depression on
global QoL and on the mental health and physical health components of
We conducted a meta-analysis of 44 randomised clinical trials comparing
psychotherapy for adults experiencing clinical depression or elevated
depressive symptoms with a control group. We used subgroup analyses to
explore the influence of various study characteristics on the
effectiveness of treatment.
We detected a small to moderate effect size (Hedges' g =
0.33, 95% CI 0.24–0.42) for global QoL, a moderate effect size for the
mental health component (g = 0.42, 95% CI 0.33–0.51)
and, after removing an outlier, a small but statistically significant
effect size for the physical health component (g = 0.16,
95% CI 0.05–0.27). Multivariate meta-regression analyses showed that the
effect size of depressive symptoms was significantly related to the
effect size of the mental health component of QoL. The effect size of
depressive symptoms was not related to global QoL or the physical health
Psychotherapy for depression has a positive impact on the QoL of patients
with depression. Improvements in QoL are not fully explained by
improvements in depressive symptom severity.
Although the association between depression and excess mortality has been well established, it is not clear whether this is greater in major depression than in subthreshold depression.
To compare excess mortality in major depression with that in subthreshold depression.
We searched bibliographic databases and included prospective studies in which both major and subthreshold depression were examined at baseline and mortality was measured at follow-up.
A total of 22 studies were included. People with major depression had a somewhat increased chance of dying earlier than people with subthreshold depression but this difference was not significant, although there was a trend (relative risk 1.13, 95% CI 0.98-1.30, P=0.1). The population attributable fraction was 7% for major depression and an additional 7% for subthreshold depression.
Although excess mortality may be somewhat higher in major than in subthreshold depression, the difference is small and the overall impact on excess mortality is comparable.
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