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Internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy for symptoms of depression and anxiety: a meta-analysis

  • VIOLA SPEK (a1) (a2), PIM CUIJPERS (a3), IVAN NYKLÍČEK (a1), HELEEN RIPER (a4), JULES KEYZER (a2) and VICTOR POP (a1) (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 20 November 2006

Background. We studied to what extent internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) programs for symptoms of depression and anxiety are effective.

Method. A meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials.

Results. The effects of internet-based CBT were compared to control conditions in 13 contrast groups with a total number of 2334 participants. A meta-analysis on treatment contrasts resulted in a moderate to large mean effect size [fixed effects analysis (FEA) d=0·40, mixed effects analysis (MEA) d=0·60] and significant heterogeneity. Therefore, two sets of post hoc subgroup analyses were carried out. Analyses on the type of symptoms revealed that interventions for symptoms of depression had a small mean effect size (FEA d=0·27, MEA d=0·32) and significant heterogeneity. Further analyses showed that one study could be regarded as an outlier. Analyses without this study showed a small mean effect size and moderate, non-significant heterogeneity. Interventions for anxiety had a large mean effect size (FEA and MEA d=0·96) and very low heterogeneity. When examining the second set of subgroups, based on therapist assistance, no significant heterogeneity was found. Interventions with therapist support (n=5) had a large mean effect size, while interventions without therapist support (n=6) had a small mean effect size (FEA d=0·24, MEA d=0·26).

Conclusions. In general, effect sizes of internet-based interventions for symptoms of anxiety were larger than effect sizes for depressive symptoms; however, this might be explained by differences in the amount of therapist support.

Corresponding author
Tilburg University, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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