Background: Quality of life and self-esteem are functional domains that may suffer when having mental problems. In this study, we examined the change in quality of life and self-esteem when targeting anxious and depressive symptoms in school children (8-12 years) using a CBT-based transdiagnostic intervention called EMOTION, Kids Coping with anxiety and depression. The aim of this study was to investigate quality of life and self-esteem in children with elevated levels of anxious and depressive symptoms, and further if the EMOTION intervention could influence these important functional domains.
Methods: The study had a clustered randomized design (cRCT), where N = 795 children recruited from 36 schools participated. The children were included based on self-reports of anxious and depressive symptoms. Schools were the unit of randomization and were assigned to intervention or control condition. Children in the intervention condition received the 10-week EMOTION intervention. Mixed effects models were used to take account of the possible clustering of data. Separate models were estimated for the dependent variables.
Results: Children with elevated levels of anxious and depressive symptoms reported lower levels of quality of life and self-esteem compared to normative samples, with girls and older children reporting the lowest levels. For both genders and older children, a large and significant increase in quality of life and self-esteem was found among the children who received the intervention compared to the children in the control condition. Children in the intervention group reporting both anxious and depressive symptoms showed a significantly larger increase in both quality of life and self-esteem compared to the controls. Reductions in quality of life and self-esteem were partially mediated by reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Conclusions: Participating in an intervention targeting emotional symptoms may have a positive effect on quality of life and self-esteem in addition to reducing anxious and depressive symptoms. Improved quality of life may increase the child's satisfaction and subjective perception of wellbeing. As low self-esteem may lead to anxious and depressive symptoms, improving this functional domain in children may make them more robust dealing with future emotional challenges. Trial registration NCT02340637, retrospectively registered.
Keywords: Adolescent; Anxiety; CBT; Children; Depression; Quality of life; Self-esteem.