Mental health treatment, like everything else, is increasingly going online. People are seeking out more information about mental health on the internet, and researchers are experimenting with new types of therapy that can be done virtually.
Those darn millennials, wanting to be able to do everything on their smartphones!
Except, there’s a twist. It turns out it’s baby boomers, not millennials, who are especially enthusiastic about going virtual with their mental health treatment. At least, that’s what’s suggested by a new paper, titled Bridging the “Digital Divide”: A Comparison of Use and Effectiveness of an Online Intervention for Depression Between Baby Boomers and Millennials.
In the study, researchers had adults with depression either participate in an online intervention for depression or continue with their treatment as usual. The researchers then looked for generational differences in how people responded to the online versus traditional treatments.
They discovered that baby boomers tended to be more into the idea of moving their treatment online. In particular, the baby boomers used the online intervention more frequently and for longer lengths of time. They also reported having more positive feelings about the online therapy.
That said, the therapy was equally effective for millennials. So while baby boomers were more upbeat about the online intervention, both millennials and baby boomers got the same results.
This isn’t surprising when you consider previous research indicating that online mental health interventions can be effective for young people too. A 2016 study, for example, suggested that online treatment can bring youth with mental health conditions into the treatment process at an earlier stage in their disorders.
Still, the question remains: why are baby boomers apparently more enthusiastic about online treatment than millennials? As a Psych Central resident millennial, I’ve got to stick up for millennials here: maybe it’s not that millennials as a group are just downers about new mental health treatments, but that they’re more internet literate and therefore more skeptical about new internet-based approaches. We know that just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s good!
Even if not everyone is equally enthusiastic about online treatments from the get-go, it seems clear that at least some forms of online therapy can be a useful way of making mental health treatment more accessible. And this study shows that internet-based interventions aren’t only a way to bring young millennials with smartphone in hand into the therapeutic process, but that older adults are open to the idea of going virtual with their treatment too.