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Background: Depressive symptoms, and the associated coexistence of symptoms of anxiety and decreased quality of life (QoL), are common in patients with heart failure (HF). However, treatment strategies for depressive symptoms in patients with HF still remain to be established. Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT), as guided self-help CBT programs, has shown good effects in the treatment of depression. Until now, ICBT has not been evaluated in patients with HF with depressive symptoms. Objective: The aims of this study were to (1) evaluate the effect of a 9-week guided ICBT program on depressive symptoms in patients with HF; (2) investigate the effect of the ICBT program on cardiac anxiety and QoL; and (3) assess factors associated with the change in depressive symptoms. Methods: Fifty participants were randomized into 2 treatment arms: ICBT or a Web-based moderated discussion forum (DF). The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 was used to measure depressive symptoms, the Cardiac Anxiety Questionnaire (CAQ) was used to measure cardiac-related anxiety, and the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure questionnaire was used to measure QoL. Data were collected at baseline and at follow-up at the end of the 9-week intervention. Intention-to-treat analysis was used, and missing data were imputed by the Expectation-Maximization method. Between-group differences were determined by analysis of covariance with control for baseline score and regression to the mean. Results: No significant difference in depressive symptoms between the ICBT and the DF group at the follow-up was found, [F(1,47)=1.63, P=.21] and Cohen´s d=0.26. Secondary within-group analysis of depressive symptoms showed that such symptoms decreased significantly in the ICBT group from baseline to the follow-up (baseline M=10.8, standard deviation [SD]=5.7 vs follow-up M=8.6, SD=4.6, t(24)=2.6, P=.02, Cohen´s d=0.43), whereas in the DF group, there was no significant change (baseline M=10.6, SD=5.0, vs follow-up M=9.8, SD=4.3, t(24)=0.93, P=.36. Cohen´s d=0.18). With regard to CAQ and QoL no significant differences were found between the groups (CAQ [d(1,47)=0.5, P=.48] and QoL [F(1,47)=2.87, P=.09]). In the ICBT group in the CAQ subscale of fear, a significant within-group decrease was shown (baseline M=1.55 vs follow-up M=1.35, P=.04). In the ICBT group, the number of logins to the Web portal correlated significantly with improvement in depressive symptoms (P=.02), whereas higher age (P=.01) and male sex (P=.048) were associated with less change in depressive symptoms. This study is underpowered because of difficulties in the recruitment of patients. Conclusions: Guided ICBT adapted for persons with HF and depressive symptoms was not statistically superior to participation in a Web-based DF. However, within the ICBT group, a statically significant improvement of depressive symptoms was detected. ClinicalTrial: NCT01681771; (Archived by WebCite at


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access


©Johan Gustav Lundgren, Örjan Dahlström, Gerhard Andersson, Tiny Jaarsma, Anita Kärner Köhler, Peter Johansson. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 03.08.2016. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.