Study: SPARX Computer Therapy Helps Depression in Young People

| by Michael Allen

Researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, reported on Thursday, in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), that a computer game designed to lift teens out of depression is as effective as one-on-one counseling,

The interactive 3-D fantasy game called SPARX was tested on 94 youngsters, whose average age was 15 and a half, diagnosed with depression (which is diagnosed in the U.S. with the DSM IV Axis).

SPARX has children to take a series of seven challenges over four to seven weeks in which an avatar has to learn to deal with anger and hurt feelings and swap negative thoughts for helpful ones.

44 percent of the SPARX group who carried out at least four of the seven challenges recovered completely. In the conventional therapy group, only 26 percent recovered fully.

Sally Merry, an associate professor at the Department of Psychological Medicine, said: "Use of the programme resulted in a clinically significant reduction in depression, anxiety and hopelessness, and an improvement in quality of life."