Can Teen Depression be Cured By Computers?


While depression may be common in adolescents, they often do not seek treatment or professional help. According to new research, specialized computer therapy is just as effective as talk therapy for teens struggling with depression.

Researchers from the University of Aukland, New Zealand created a randomize, controlled test using 187 adolescents aged 12 to 19 in order to determine whether a new computerized cognitivie behavioral therapy intervention called SPARX worked to reduce depressive symptoms any better than traditional one-on-one talk therapy.

Study participants were randomly selected to either use the computer program or undergo traditional therapy. They also received a 3-month follow up.

Researchers found that SPARX reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety by a third which made the treatment just as effective as traditional therapy. Additionally, 44% of a subgroup of 69 participants who completed at least four homework modules completely recovered. That was true for onlky 26% of the people given usual care.

Most participants, regardless of approach, reported high satisfaction with their treatment. However, 95% of the people who used SPARX said it would appeal to other teenagers. Up to 81% said they would recommend it to friends.

Researchers described the computer software as an “effective resource for help seeking adolescents with depression at primary healthcare sites. Use of the program resulted in a clinically significant reduction in depression, anxiety, and hopelessness and an improvement in quality of life.”

Not only do teens like it and benefit from it, SPARX may be more cost effective than usual care and could be used to address unmet demand for treatment.

This article was originally published on


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