18/05/2021 Medicine Psychology
DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.17.21257309 SemanticScholar ID: 234757650 MAG: 3161828581

Mitigating the psychological impacts of COVID-19 restrictions: The Behavioural Activation in Social Isolation (BASIL) pilot randomised controlled trial to prevent depression and loneliness among older people with long term conditions

Publication Summary

Background Older adults with long-term conditions have become more socially isolated (often due to advice to shield to protect them from COVID-19) and are thus at particular risk of depression and loneliness. There is a need for brief scalable psychosocial interventions to mitigate the psychological impacts of social isolation. Behavioural Activation is a plausible intervention, but a trial is needed. Methods We undertook an external randomised pilot trial (ISRCTN94091479) designed to test recruitment, retention and engagement with, and the acceptability and preliminary effects of the intervention. Participants aged [≥] 65 years with two or more long-term conditions were recruited between June and October 2020. Behavioural Activation was offered to intervention participants (n=47), and control participants received usual care (n=49). Findings Remote recruitment was possible and 45/47 (95.7%) randomised to the intervention completed one or more sessions (median 6 sessions). 90 (93.8%) completed the one month follow-up, and 86 (89.6%) completed the three month follow-up. The between-group comparison for the primary clinical outcome at one month was an adjusted between group mean difference of -0.50 PHQ-9 points (95% CI -2.01 to 1.01), but only a small number of participants had completed the intervention at this point. At three months, the PHQ-9 adjusted mean difference was 0.19 (95% CI -1.36 to 1.75). When we examined loneliness, the between-group difference in the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness scale at one month was 0.28 (95% CI -0.51 to 1.06), and there was statistically significant between group difference at three months (-0.87; 95% CI -1.56 to -0.18). Participants who withdrew had minimal depressive symptoms at entry. Interpretation Behavioural Activation is a plausible intervention to mitigate the psychological impacts of COVID-19 isolation for older adults. The intervention can be delivered remotely and at scale, but should be reserved for older adults with evidence of depressive symptoms. The significant reduction in loneliness is unlikely to be a chance finding, and this will now be confirmed in a fully powered RCT. Funding This study was funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) RP-PG-0217-20006

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Simon Gilbody

Prof. Simon Gilbody

University of York - Director of the Mental Health and Addictions Research Group

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