A Self-Paced, Web-Based, Positive Emotion Skills Intervention for Reducing Symptoms of Depression: Protocol for Development and Pilot Testing of MARIGOLD

JMIR Res Protoc. 2018 Jun 5;7(6):e10494. doi: 10.2196/10494.


Background: Living with elevated symptoms of depression can have debilitating consequences for an individual's psychosocial and physical functioning, quality of life, and health care utilization. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that skills for increasing positive emotion can be helpful to individuals with depression. Although Web-based interventions to reduce negative emotion in individuals with depression are available, these interventions frequently suffer from poor retention and adherence and do not capitalize on the potential benefits of increasing positive emotion.

Objective: The aim of this study was to develop and test a Web-based positive emotion skills intervention tailored for individuals living with elevated depressive symptoms, as well as to develop and test enhancement strategies for increasing retention and adherence to that intervention.

Methods: This study protocol describes the development and testing for Mobile Affect Regulation Intervention with the Goal of Lowering Depression (MARIGOLD), a Web-based positive emotion skills intervention, adapted for individuals with elevated depressive symptomatology. The intervention development is taking place in three phases. In phase 1, we are tailoring an existing positive emotion skills intervention for individuals with elevated symptoms of depression and are pilot testing the tailored version of the intervention in a randomized controlled trial with two control conditions (N=60). In phase 2, we are developing and testing three enhancements aimed at boosting retention and adherence to the Web-based intervention (N=75): facilitator contact, an online discussion board, and virtual badges. In phase 3, we are conducting a multifactorial, nine-arm pilot trial (N=600) to systematically test these enhancement strategies, individually and in combination. The primary outcome is depressive symptom severity. Secondary outcomes include positive and negative emotion, psychological well-being, and coping resources.

Results: The project was funded in August 2014, and data collection was completed in May 2018. Data analysis is currently under way, and the first results are expected to be submitted for publication in 2018.

Conclusions: Findings from this investigation will enable us to develop an optimal package of intervention content and enhancement strategies for individuals with elevated symptoms of depression. If this intervention proves to be effective, it will provide a cost-effective, anonymous, appealing, and flexible approach for reducing symptoms of depression and improving psychological adjustment through increasing positive emotion.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01964820 (Phase 1); https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01964820 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6zpmKBcyX). ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02861755 (Phase 2); https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02861755 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6zpmLmy8k).

Registered report identifier: RR1-10.2196/10494.

Keywords: depression; emotions; happiness; mobile apps; telemedicine.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01964820
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02861755