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      Improving Employee Well-Being and Effectiveness: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Web-Based Psychological Interventions Delivered in the Workplace

      , MSc 1 , , , PhD 1 , , DPhil, DClinPsych 1
      (Reviewer), (Reviewer)
      Journal of Medical Internet Research
      JMIR Publications
      adherence, engagement, Internet, meta-analysis, psychological interventions, stress, systematic review, wellbeing, workplace

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          Stress, depression, and anxiety among working populations can result in reduced work performance and increased absenteeism. Although there is evidence that these common mental health problems are preventable and treatable in the workplace, uptake of psychological treatments among the working population is low. One way to address this may be the delivery of occupational digital mental health interventions. While there is convincing evidence for delivering digital psychological interventions within a health and community context, there is no systematic review or meta-analysis of these interventions in an occupational setting.


          The aim of this study was to identify the effectiveness of occupational digital mental health interventions in enhancing employee psychological well-being and increasing work effectiveness and to identify intervention features associated with the highest rates of engagement and adherence.


          A systematic review of the literature was conducted using Cochrane guidelines. Papers published from January 2000 to May 2016 were searched in the PsychINFO, MEDLINE, PubMed, Science Direct, and the Cochrane databases, as well as the databases of the researchers and relevant websites. Unpublished data was sought using the Conference Proceedings Citation Index and the Clinical Trials and International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) research registers. A meta-analysis was conducted by applying a random-effects model to assess the pooled effect size for psychological well-being and the work effectiveness outcomes. A positive deviance approach was used to identify those intervention features associated with the highest rates of engagement and adherence.


          In total, 21 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) met the search criteria. Occupational digital mental health interventions had a statistically significant effect post intervention on both psychological well-being ( g=0.37, 95% CI 0.23-0.50) and work effectiveness ( g=0.25, 95% CI 0.09-0.41) compared with the control condition. No statistically significant differences were found on either outcome between studies using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches (as defined by the authors) compared with other psychological approaches, offering guidance compared with self-guidance, or recruiting from a targeted workplace population compared with a universal workplace population. In-depth analysis of the interventions identified by the positive deviance approach suggests that interventions that offer guidance are delivered over a shorter time frame (6 to 7 weeks), utilize secondary modalities for delivering the interventions and engaging users (ie, emails and text messages [short message service, SMS]), and use elements of persuasive technology (ie, self-monitoring and tailoring), which may achieve greater engagement and adherence.


          This review provides evidence that occupational digital mental health interventions can improve workers’ psychological well-being and increase work effectiveness. It identifies intervention characteristics that may increase engagement. Recommendations are made for future research, practice, and intervention development.

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          Most cited references57

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          Persuasive System Design Does Matter: A Systematic Review of Adherence to Web-Based Interventions

          Background Although web-based interventions for promoting health and health-related behavior can be effective, poor adherence is a common issue that needs to be addressed. Technology as a means to communicate the content in web-based interventions has been neglected in research. Indeed, technology is often seen as a black-box, a mere tool that has no effect or value and serves only as a vehicle to deliver intervention content. In this paper we examine technology from a holistic perspective. We see it as a vital and inseparable aspect of web-based interventions to help explain and understand adherence. Objective This study aims to review the literature on web-based health interventions to investigate whether intervention characteristics and persuasive design affect adherence to a web-based intervention. Methods We conducted a systematic review of studies into web-based health interventions. Per intervention, intervention characteristics, persuasive technology elements and adherence were coded. We performed a multiple regression analysis to investigate whether these variables could predict adherence. Results We included 101 articles on 83 interventions. The typical web-based intervention is meant to be used once a week, is modular in set-up, is updated once a week, lasts for 10 weeks, includes interaction with the system and a counselor and peers on the web, includes some persuasive technology elements, and about 50% of the participants adhere to the intervention. Regarding persuasive technology, we see that primary task support elements are most commonly employed (mean 2.9 out of a possible 7.0). Dialogue support and social support are less commonly employed (mean 1.5 and 1.2 out of a possible 7.0, respectively). When comparing the interventions of the different health care areas, we find significant differences in intended usage (p = .004), setup (p < .001), updates (p < .001), frequency of interaction with a counselor (p < .001), the system (p = .003) and peers (p = .017), duration (F = 6.068, p = .004), adherence (F = 4.833, p = .010) and the number of primary task support elements (F = 5.631, p = .005). Our final regression model explained 55% of the variance in adherence. In this model, a RCT study as opposed to an observational study, increased interaction with a counselor, more frequent intended usage, more frequent updates and more extensive employment of dialogue support significantly predicted better adherence. Conclusions Using intervention characteristics and persuasive technology elements, a substantial amount of variance in adherence can be explained. Although there are differences between health care areas on intervention characteristics, health care area per se does not predict adherence. Rather, the differences in technology and interaction predict adherence. The results of this study can be used to make an informed decision about how to design a web-based intervention to which patients are more likely to adhere.
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            Adverse health effects of high-effort/low-reward conditions.

            J Siegrist (1996)
            In addition to the person-environment fit model (J. R. French, R. D. Caplan, & R. V. Harrison, 1982) and the demand-control model (R. A. Karasek & T. Theorell, 1990), a third theoretical concept is proposed to assess adverse health effects of stressful experience at work: the effort-reward imbalance model. The focus of this model is on reciprocity of exchange in occupational life where high-cost/low-gain conditions are considered particularly stressful. Variables measuring low reward in terms of low status control (e.g., lack of promotion prospects, job insecurity) in association with high extrinsic (e.g., work pressure) or intrinsic (personal coping pattern, e.g., high need for control) effort independently predict new cardiovascular events in a prospective study on blue-collar men. Furthermore, these variables partly explain prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors (hypertension, atherogenic lipids) in 2 independent studies. Studying adverse health effects of high-effort/low-reward conditions seems well justified, especially in view of recent developments of the labor market.
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              A review of eHealth interventions for physical activity and dietary behavior change.

              To review eHealth intervention studies for adults and children that targeted behavior change for physical activity, healthy eating, or both behaviors. Systematic literature searches were performed using five databases: MEDLINE, PsychInfo, CINAHL, ERIC, and the Cochrane Library to retrieve articles. Articles published in scientific journals were included if they evaluated an intervention for physical activity and/or dietary behaviors, or focused on weight loss, used randomized or quasi-experimental designs, measured outcomes at baseline and a follow-up period, and included an intervention where participants interacted with some type of electronic technology either as the main intervention or an adjunct component. All studies were published between 2000 and 2005. Eighty-six publications were initially identified, of which 49 met the inclusion criteria (13 physical activity publications, 16 dietary behaviors publications, and 20 weight loss or both physical activity and diet publications), and represented 47 different studies. Studies were described on multiple dimensions, including sample characteristics, design, intervention, measures, and results. eHealth interventions were superior to comparison groups for 21 of 41 (51%) studies (3 physical activity, 7 diet, 11 weight loss/physical activity and diet). Twenty-four studies had indeterminate results, and in four studies the comparison conditions outperformed eHealth interventions. Published studies of eHealth interventions for physical activity and dietary behavior change are in their infancy. Results indicated mixed findings related to the effectiveness of eHealth interventions. Interventions that feature interactive technologies need to be refined and more rigorously evaluated to fully determine their potential as tools to facilitate health behavior change.

                Author and article information

                J Med Internet Res
                J. Med. Internet Res
                Journal of Medical Internet Research
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                July 2017
                26 July 2017
                : 19
                : 7
                [1] 1 School of Psychology University of Sussex Brighton United Kingdom
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Stephany Carolan sc587@ 123456sussex.ac.uk
                ©Stephany Carolan, Peter R Harris, Kate Cavanagh. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 26.07.2017.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

                Original Paper
                Original Paper

                adherence,engagement,internet,meta-analysis,psychological interventions,stress,systematic review,wellbeing,workplace


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