Digital CBT can significantly relieve anxiety and depression, Trinity study finds

16th June 2020

Digital mental health interventions can have a significant long-term impact on anxiety and depression recovery, newly published research undertaken in collaboration with the School of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin has found.

The study, published in the Nature partner journal Digital Medicine, involved more than 360 NHS service users in the UK. It was undertaken by SilverCloud Health, the world’s leading digital mental health company, with the School of Psychology at Trinity and health economics analysis from the University of Sheffield. As part of the study a treatment group was given eight weeks of supported digital mental health intervention to treat depression and anxiety, compared with a waiting list control group that did not receive the treatment initially.

Published at a time of increased anxiety and impact on mental health from the COVID-19 pandemic, the research emphasises how digital cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) as part of wider psychological care can deliver strong clinical improvements and recovery. In addition to patient self-reported outcomes, the study included a formal diagnosis of depression and anxiety and results show that more than half of those with a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression recovered after three months.

Psychiatric interviews of participants at three months after treatment found that, overall, 56.4% no longer had a diagnosis of anxiety, depression or a joint diagnosis. A further significant decrease in symptom scores was seen after 12 months.

The findings come as mental health providers anticipate a significant increase in a range of disorders linked to anxiety and depression stemming from the pandemic and emerging as the lockdown continues to ease. The potential triggers include grief, job loss, and insecurity, loneliness and isolation. 

Dr Derek Richards, Chief Science Officer at SilverCloud Health and Co-Director of the E-Mental Health Research Group, Trinity College, said:

“This is an important, large-scale research that demonstrates how digitally-provided cognitive behavioural therapy can enhance a wider mental health therapy programme calibrated to an individual’s needs.

“Due to its results on long-term improvement, recovery and cost-effectiveness, at a time of increasing demand for psychological and behavioural healthcare, digital mental health care should be viewed as a standard part of psychological support and no longer simply as an innovative approach.

“As a result of the global pandemic, many individuals within communities are facing mental health challenges and iCBT can play an important part complementing current mental healthcare services, increasing their reach and capacity, and helping support and treat more people.” 


E-mental health group, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin is a leading research group on digital mental health interventions.  The main aim of the group is to be a world leader in the science and practice of e-mental health interventions. The areas of research interest for the group include digital mental health interventions efficacy and effectiveness, qualitative experiences of service users and supporters, cultural adaptation and personalisation of interventions, Implementation science & practice, ??natural data analytics and data mining, performance and learning, and device integration and experimentation. The group are involved in a large and broad portfolio of projects across Europe and US and collaborate with leading academic and research institutions.

SilverCloud Health is the world’s leading digital mental health company, enabling healthcare organisations to deliver clinically validated digital health/therapeutic care that improves outcomes, increases access and scale while reducing costs. The company’s multi-award-winning digital mental health platform is a result of over 16 years of clinical research with leading academic institutions. Today, SilverCloud is being used by over 250 organisations globally to meet their populations’ mental health needs.