Treating Youth Depression and Reducing the Risk of Relapse

A new psychological program designed to help young people with depression, is just as effective as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) but with some added benefits, according to a research study funded by Australian Rotary Health.

Dr Tegan Cruwys from the University of Queensland and Australian National University was awarded a Mental Health Research Grant from 2018-2019 to conduct a randomised controlled trial comparing the Groups 4 Health intervention to CBT.

174 young people between 15 to 25 years of age who reported symptoms of at least mild clinical depression and elevated loneliness were randomly assigned to receive either Groups 4 Health or cognitive behaviour therapy.

Dr Cruwys said overall the findings indicate that Groups 4 Health is as effective as cognitive behaviour therapy in targeting depression.

“Young people with depression and loneliness experienced on average a substantial improvement in their symptoms after participating in the trial,” Dr Cruwys said.

“Groups 4 Health was as effective as cognitive behaviour therapy in reducing symptoms of depression among young people. The benefits of Groups 4 Health for depression were maintained up to one year later.”

The trial also found that Groups 4 Health was more effective than cognitive behaviour therapy at reducing loneliness, which is an important risk factor for relapse of depression down the track.

“In fact, loneliness even continued to decrease up to one year later among young people who completed Groups 4 Health,” Dr Cruwys said.

“Our findings suggest that interventions that target loneliness may be an effective approach to reducing symptoms of depression and to reduce the risk of relapse.”

The Groups 4 Health intervention had some other health benefits too.

“Interestingly, Groups 4 Health was also more effective than cognitive behaviour therapy at reducing social anxiety symptoms.”

“Although neither program directly targeted social anxiety, our findings indicate that group interventions designed to help young people articulate and capitalise on the social groups in their lives may have wide ranging benefits for psychological well-being.”

Young people involved in the study reported that both programs were equally enjoyable, interesting, helpful, and useful – suggesting that Groups 4 Health could be an effective treatment option for young people experiencing depression.

Dr Cruwys and her team are currently preparing two academic publications based on these results and hope to submit them this year.

To read their study protocol paper, click here.

Visit the Groups 4 Health website for more information.

Dr Cruwys will be joining us soon on our podcast ‘The Research Behind Lift the Lid’ to talk about these findings, so stay tuned!

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Media contact: Jessica Cooper –




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