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Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. 2001 October; 51(471): 838–845.
PMCID: PMC1314132

The clinical and cost-effectiveness of self-help treatments for anxiety and depressive disorders in primary care: a systematic review.


Anxiety and depression are prevalent in primary care; however, current treatments differ in their availability, cost-effectiveness, and acceptability to patients. Self-help treatments (such as manual-based bibliotherapy) may be an appropriate intervention for some patients. The aim of this research was to determine the clinical and cost-effectiveness of self-help treatments for anxiety and depression in primary care by conducting a systematic review of randomised and non-randomised trials of self-help interventions for patients with anxiety and depression in primary care, from electronic database searches, correspondence with authors, and limited handsearching. Eight studies were identified, examining written interventions based mostly on behavioural principles. Although the majority of trials reported some significant advantages in outcome associated with self-help treatments, the number of included studies was limited and a number of methodological limitations were identified. There were no data concerning long-term clinical benefits or cost-effectiveness. In conclusion, self-help treatments may have the potential to improve the overall cost-effectiveness of mental health service provision. However, the available evidence is limited in quantity and quality and more rigorous trials are required to provide more reliable estimates of the clinical and cost-effectiveness of these treatments.

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners