Challenges and Benefits of an Internet-Based Intervention With a Peer Support Component for Older Adults With Depression: Qualitative Analysis of Textual Data

Annie T. Chen, Krystal Slattery, Kathryn N. Tomasino, Caryn Kseniya Rubanovich, Leland R. Bardsley, David C. Mohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Technological interventions provide many opportunities for improving the health and quality of life of older adults. However, interaction with new technologies can also cause frustration. Although these themes have been explored in extant research, much remains to be learned with regard to how the challenges of aging and technology use and the experiences of participating in a social and learning environment are interrelated. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to perform a qualitative analysis of data collected from MoodTech, a pilot study of an internet-based intervention with a peer support component for older adults with symptoms of depression, to better understand the participants' experience of using technological interventions, including the challenges and benefits that they experienced over the course of these interventions. METHODS: We employed an inductive qualitative analysis method based on grounded theory methodology and interpretative phenomenological analysis to analyze participant textual data. These textual data were of 3 main types: (1) assignments in which participants challenged their negative thoughts, (2) status updates, and (3) comments in the peer support component of the intervention. RESULTS: We have presented the results through 3 main themes: (1) the challenges of aging as seen through the participants' comments, (2) the difficulties experienced by the participants in using MoodTech, and (3) the benefits they derived from participating. CONCLUSIONS: This paper offers several contributions concerning study participants' experiences with internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) interventions with a peer support component and design considerations for developing complex technological interventions that support the challenges participants experience due to aging and cognitive difficulties. First, technical issues encountered by older adults within the context of the intervention can interact with and exacerbate the insecurities they experience in life, and it is important to consider how intervention components might be designed to mitigate these issues. Second, peer support can be employed as a mechanism to facilitate communication, support, and collaborative problem solving among participants in an intervention. The insights from this paper can inform the design of iCBT interventions for older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e17586
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 16 2020


  • aged
  • depression
  • internet
  • peer group
  • qualitative research
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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