New study shows that psychological therapy delivered online can help tackle the increasing prevalence of depression in older adults

  • Despite high prevalence, depression in older people is both under-diagnosed and under-treated
  • Evidence shows that amongst the older adult population, there is often a good response to treatment for mental health problems
  • Online therapy (IECBT) offers an important way to reach older adults who are in need of a convenient and flexible way to access care that they may not otherwise be able to

While technology adoption in healthcare has consistently been higher among younger generations, a new study ‘True technology-enabled mental health care: trust, agency and ageing’ published in mHealth shows how psychological therapy delivered online is helping older adults to access treatment for their depression. The study has been co-authored by Sarah Bateup, Chief Clinical Officer at Ieso Digital Health.

Often left undiagnosed or untreated, depression is a common problem among older adults. Two out of ten older men (22%) and almost one third of older women (28%) are affected by depression, compared to one in five adults in the general population.

This high prevalence of mental health problems in the older adult population is often characterized as inevitable and intractable, despite evidence to show that there is often good responses to treatment.

Online therapy (IECBT) offers an important way to reach older adults who can be experiencing a loss of personal and financial resource. Physically getting to services can use a lot of valuable energy; effort to get themselves ready to leave their home, often transport has to be arranged and unfamiliar places navigated. If technology enables people to receive therapy at home, the older person’s energy and resource can be preserved, while increasing their agency and autonomy.

Speaking about this study, Sarah Bateup Chief Clinical Officer at Ieso Digital Health and co-author of this study said, “We have seen that IECBT has considerable potential as an intervention for older people. Receiving therapy online enables older individuals to access mental health care on their terms, from their home, which can be particularly beneficial if they are physically unwell or have mobility or transportation issues. If Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is to succeed in its goal of increasing uptake amongst older people, making effective use of technology is an important strategy to embrace.”

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