• Paul Fingleton

Digital health is not just for millennials

New study shows that the number of UK seniors receiving online therapy is significant and growing

While digital health technology adoption has consistently been higher amongst younger generations, a new study ‘The Use of Internet-Enabled Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety amongst Older People’ which will be published in the December 2017 International Journal of Aging and Society, shows how rapidly increasing levels of internet access amongst overs 65s, means that that the number of seniors now receiving online cognitive therapy (IECBT) in the UK is a significant and growing cohort. The study also found that a greater than expected proportion of patients having IECBT are older men, compared to traditional therapy methods.

Speaking about this study, Sarah Bateup Chief Clinical Officer at Ieso Digital Health and co-author of this study said:

“This is an important study as it confirms that digital health is not just for millennials and shows how technology is being embraced by older people too[1]. Online therapy (IECBT) offers an opportunity to reach older adults who are less likely to be referred for psychological therapy by their GP. Older people are much more vulnerable to mental health problems compared to younger adults. Two out of ten older men (22%) and almost one third of older women (28%) are affected by depression, compared to one in five adults in the general population.[2]

“It’s estimated that only 15% of older people with depression receive any help at all from the NHS[3]. IECBT provides older people with an important new way to access mental health care as it removes the perceived stigma by conferring a greater sense of privacy and can be accessed from home which is particularly beneficial if a patient is physically unwell or if mobility or transportation is a barrier to attending appointments say Sarah Bateup.”

“To date it has been widely accepted that women find it easier to seek help for mental health issues, compared to men, however this study’s findings show another important shift when it comes to gender divides and older men now outnumber older women accessing IECBT” says Bateup.

IECBT, mirrors face-to-face therapy in that it involves synchronous real-time communication between therapist and patient in therapy sessions. However, communication in IECBT takes place via typing in a secure virtual therapy room. The transcript of each session, conducted in this way, is encrypted and held on a secure site for both therapist and patient to access at any time. In addition to a weekly CBT appointment, therapist and patient can also communicate between sessions. This is particularly useful if a patient is experiencing difficulties or distress between therapy appointments.