Randomized controlled pilot trial of supportive text messages for patients with depression

Abstract Background Depression is projected to be the primary cause of disability worldwide by 2030. In a recent survey, the most commonly cited unmet need among 42.4% of depressed Albertans was the lack of sufficient, accessible, and affordable counselling. Our aim was to test the efficacy of a supportive text messaging mobile health intervention in improving treatment outcomes in depressed patients. Methods We performed a single-rater-blinded randomized trial involving 73 patients with Major Depressive Disorder. Patients in the intervention group (n = 35) received twice-daily supportive text messages for 3 months while those in the control group (n = 38) received a single text message every fortnight thanking them for participating in the study. The primary outcome of this study was: “Mean changes in the BDI scores from baseline“. Results After adjusting for baseline BDI scores, a significant difference remained in the 3 month mean BDI scores between the intervention and control groups: (20.8 (SD = 11.7) vs. 24.9 (SD = 11.5), F (1, 60) = 4.83, p = 0.03, ηp2 = 0.07). The mean difference in the BDI scores change was significant with an effect size (Cohen’s d) of 0.67. Furthermore, after adjusting for baseline scores, a significant difference remained in the 3 month mean self-rated VAS scores (EQ-5D-5 L scale) between the intervention and control groups, 65.7 (SD = 15.3) vs. 57.4 (SD = 22.9), F (1, 60) =4.16, p = 0.05, ηp2 = 0.065. The mean difference in change mean self-rated VAS scores was also statistically significant with an effect size (Cohen’s d) of 0.51. Conclusions Our findings suggest that supportive text messages are a potentially useful psychological intervention for depression, especially in underserved populations. Further studies are needed to explore the implications of our findings in larger clinical samples. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02327858 . Registered 24 December 2014.
BMC Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 02;17(1):286