Objective: The primary purpose of this randomized controlled trial (RCT) was to evaluate the efficacy of internet-based problem-solving training (iPST) for employees in the educational sector (teachers) with depressive symptoms. The results of training were compared to those of a waitlist control group (WLC).
Methods: One-hundred and fifty teachers with elevated depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, CES-D ≥16) were assigned to either the iPST or WLC group. The iPST consisted of five lessons, including problem-solving and rumination techniques. Symptoms were assessed before the intervention began and in follow-up assessments after seven weeks, three months, and six months. The primary outcome was depressive symptom severity (CES-D). Secondary outcomes included general and work-specific self-efficacy, perceived stress, pathological worries, burnout symptoms, general physical and mental health, and absenteeism.
Results: iPST participants displayed a significantly greater reduction in depressive symptoms after the intervention (d=0.59, 95% CI 0.26-0.92), after three months (d=0.37, 95% CI 0.05-0.70) and after six months (d=0.38, 95% CI 0.05-0.70) compared to the control group. The iPST participants also displayed significantly higher improvements in secondary outcomes. However, workplace absenteeism was not significantly affected.
Conclusion: iPST is effective in reducing symptoms of depression among teachers. Disseminated on a large scale, iPST could contribute to reducing the burden of stress-related mental health problems among teachers. Future studies should evaluate iPST approaches for use in other working populations.