Digital Health Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Among People With Chronic Conditions: Scoping Review

J Med Internet Res. 2022 Sep 26;24(9):e38030. doi: 10.2196/38030.


Background: Chronic conditions are characterized by their long duration (≥1 year), need for ongoing medical attention, and limitations in activities of daily living. These can often co-occur with depression and anxiety as common and detrimental comorbidities among the growing population living with chronic conditions. Digital health interventions (DHIs) hold promise in overcoming barriers to accessing mental health support for these individuals; however, the design and implementation of DHIs for depression and anxiety in people with chronic conditions are yet to be explored.

Objective: This study aimed to explore what is known in the literature regarding DHIs for the prevention, detection, or treatment of depression and anxiety among people with chronic conditions.

Methods: A scoping review of the literature was conducted using the Arksey and O'Malley framework. Searches of the literature published in 5 databases between 1990 and 2019 were conducted in April 2019 and updated in March 2021. To be included, studies must have described a DHI tested with, or designed for, the prevention, detection, or treatment of depression or anxiety in people with common chronic conditions (arthritis, asthma, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer disease or dementia). Studies were independently screened by 2 reviewers against the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Both quantitative and qualitative data were extracted, charted, and synthesized to provide a descriptive summary of the trends and considerations for future research.

Results: Database searches yielded 11,422 articles across the initial and updated searches, 53 (0.46%) of which were included in this review. DHIs predominantly sought to provide treatment (44/53, 83%), followed by detection (5/53, 9%) and prevention (4/53, 8%). Most DHIs were focused on depression (36/53, 68%), guided (32/53, 60%), tailored to chronic physical conditions (19/53, 36%), and delivered through web-based platforms (20/53, 38%). Only 2 studies described the implementation of a DHI.

Conclusions: As a growing research area, DHIs offer the potential to address the gap in care for depression and anxiety among people with chronic conditions; however, their implementation in standard care is scarce. Although stepped care has been identified as a promising model to implement efficacious DHIs, few studies have investigated the use of DHIs for depression and anxiety among chronic conditions using such models. In developing stepped care, we outlined DHI tailoring, guidance, and intensity as key considerations that require further research.

Keywords: anxiety; chronic disease; depression; digital health; eHealth; mHealth; mental health; mobile health; multiple chronic conditions; psychiatry; telehealth; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Telemedicine*