Specifying the Efficacy of Digital Therapeutic Tools for Depression and Anxiety: Retrospective, 2-Cohort, Real-World Analysis

Yifat Fundoiano-Hershcovitz, Inbar Breuer Asher, Marilyn D. Ritholz, Eitan Feniger, Omar Manejwala, Pavel Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Depression and anxiety are the main sources of work and social disabilities as well as health-related problems around the world. Digital therapeutic solutions using cognitive behavioral therapy have demonstrated efficacy in depression and anxiety. A common goal of digital health apps is to increase user digital engagement to improve outcomes. However, there is a limited understanding of the association between digital platform components and clinical outcomes. OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study is to investigate the contribution of specific digital engagement tools to mental health conditions. We hypothesized that participation in coaching sessions and breathing exercises would be associated with a reduction in depression and anxiety. METHODS: Depression and general anxiety symptoms were evaluated in real-world data cohorts using the digital health platform for digital intervention and monitoring change. This retrospective real-world analysis of users on a mobile platform-based treatment followed two cohorts of people: (1) users who started with moderate levels of depression and completed at least 2 depression assessments (n=519) and (2) users who started with moderate levels of anxiety and completed at least 2 anxiety assessments (n=474). Levels of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) and anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7) were tracked throughout the first 16 weeks. A piecewise mixed-effects model was applied to model the trajectories of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 mean scores in 2 segments (1-6 weeks and 7-16 weeks). Finally, simple slope analysis was used for the interpretation of the interactions probing the moderators: coaching sessions and breathing exercises in both depression and anxiety cohorts. RESULTS: Analysis revealed a significant decrease in depression symptoms (β=-.37, 95% CI -0.46 to 0.28; P≤.001) during the period of weeks 1-6 of app use, which was maintained during the period of 7-16 weeks. Coach interaction significantly moderated the reduction in depression symptoms during the period of weeks 1-6 (β=-.03, 95% CI -0.05 to -0.001; P=.02). A significant decrease in anxiety symptoms (β=-.41, 95% CI -0.50 to -0.33; P≤.001) was revealed during the period of 1-6 weeks, which was maintained during the period of 7-16 weeks. Breathing exercises significantly moderated the reduction in anxiety symptoms during the period of 1-6 weeks (β=-.07, 95% CI -0.14 to -0.01; P=.04). CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrated general improvement followed by a period of stability of depression and anxiety symptoms associated with cognitive behavioral therapy-based digital intervention. Interestingly, engagement with a coaching session but not a breathing exercise was associated with a reduction in depression symptoms. Moreover, breathing exercise but not engagement with a coaching session was associated with a reduction of anxiety symptoms. These findings emphasize the importance of using a personalized approach to behavioral health during digital health interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e47350
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume25
DOIs
StatePublished - 22 Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©Yifat Fundoiano-Hershcovitz, Inbar Breuer Asher, Marilyn D Ritholz, Eitan Feniger, Omar Manejwala, Pavel Goldstein. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (https://www.jmir.org), 22.09.2023.

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • behavioral change
  • behavioral health
  • breathing exercises
  • coaching
  • cognitive behavior therapy
  • cohort
  • depression
  • digital health
  • digital health intervention
  • health app
  • health outcome
  • intervention
  • mental health
  • retrospective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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