Self-help books DO relieve depression – and prevent it from returning
Patients offered books had significantly lower levels of depression four months and a year laterSelf-help books based on the
principles of 'talking therapy' cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) Books helped motivate people and encourage positive life changes, say Scottish researchers
16:44 GMT, 28 January 2013
16:51 GMT, 28 January 2013
Prescribing self-help books on the NHS is an effective treatment for depression
Reading a self-help book really can alleviate depression, new research suggests.
Patients offered books had significantly lower levels of depression four months later than those offered routine GP care such as antidepressants.
The findings are good news in an era where non-drug forms of treatment, such as talking therapies, are hard to come by.
More than 200 patients who had been
diagnosed with depression by their GP took part in the University of Glasgow study.
Half of them were on antidepressant drugs and some were provided with a self-help
guide dealing with different aspects of depression, such as sleep problems.
These people read the book and had support sessions.
The self-help book was based on the
principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is a
well-established ‘talking therapy’ for depression.
It is based on the principle that problems can be managed by changing thought process and actions. But accessing a therapist can be difficult.
CBT is already recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) for the treatment
of depression, either as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate
depression, or in combination with antidepressants for more severe
However, as it is usually provided by specialist therapists, people in some areas may have limited access to treatment.
In the study, patients who read the books also had three meetings with a support worker who went through the literature and helped the volunteers plan what changes to make.
After four months those who had been
prescribed the self-help books had significantly lower levels of
depression than those who received usual GP care.
After four months, those who had been prescribed the self-help books had significantly lower levels of depression than those who got usual GP care
Participants in the guided self-help CBT group also had better
knowledge of depression, the researchers reported in the journal Plos One.
Study leader Prof Christopher Williams, who also wrote the books called Overcoming Depression and Low Mood, said the guided
sessions were crucial in the success of the books.
He told the BBC that the sessions could be delivered by GPs, rather than therapists, thereby reducing the waiting lists for talking therapies.
The sessions can be delivered in general practice without referral to a specialist, taking pressure off waiting lists.
'We found this had a really significant clinical impact and the findings are very encouraging,' he told the BBC.
'Depression saps people's motivation and makes it hard to believe change is possible.'
The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) One.