Age, Motivation, and Emotion Regulation Skills Predict Treatment Outcome in an Internet-Based Self-Help Intervention for COVID-19 Related Psychological Distress

Front Public Health. 2022 Jun 9:10:835356. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.835356. eCollection 2022.


Introduction: First evidence suggests that internet-based self-help interventions effectively reduce COVID-19 related psychological distress. However, it is yet unclear which participant characteristics are associated with better treatment outcomes. Therefore, we conducted secondary analyses on data from a randomized controlled trial investigating the efficacy of a 3-week internet-based self-help intervention for COVID-19 related psychological distress. In this exploratory analysis, we examined several predictors ranging from sociodemographic variables to psychological distress, resource-related, and treatment-related variables. This includes, for example, age, motivation, and emotion regulation skills. Treatment outcomes were defined as post-treatment depressive symptoms and post-treatment resilience.

Methods: In a total of 107 participants with at least mild depressive symptoms, possible predictor variables and treatment outcomes were assessed using self-report measures. For example, emotion regulation skills were assessed by the Self-report measure for the assessment of emotion regulation skills. In a first step, we performed a separate linear regression analysis for each potential predictor. In a second step, predictors meeting a significant threshold of p < 0.05 were entered in linear multiple regression models. Baseline scores of the respective outcome measure were controlled for.

Results: The mean age of the participants was 40.36 years (SD = 14.59, range = 18-81 years) with the majority being female (n = 87, 81.3%). Younger age predicted lower post-treatment depressive symptoms. Additionally, higher motivation to use the intervention and better pre-treatment emotion regulation skills predicted higher post-treatment resilience.

Conclusion: The current study provides preliminary evidence regarding the relationship between participant characteristics and treatment outcome in internet-based self-help interventions for COVID-19 related distress. Our results suggest that under the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 such interventions might be particularly beneficial for young adults regarding depressive symptoms. Moreover, focusing on participants' existing strengths might be a promising approach to promote resilience through internet-based self-help interventions. However, since this was an exploratory analysis in an uncontrolled setting, further studies are needed to draw firm conclusions about the relationship of participant characteristics and treatment outcome in internet-based self-help interventions for COVID-19 related psychological distress.

Keywords: COVID-19; depressive symptoms (DSs); internet-based self-help; psychological distress; resilience.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Emotional Regulation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult