Wahlund T, Mataix-Cols D, Olofsdotter Lauri K, de Schipper E, Ljótsson B, Aspvall K, Andersson E
Psychother Psychosom - (-) 1-9 [2020-11-19; online 2020-11-19]
Worries about the immediate and long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic may for some individuals develop into pervasive worry that is disproportionate in its intensity or duration and significantly interferes with everyday life. The aim of this study was to investigate if a brief self-guided, online psychological intervention can reduce the degree of dysfunctional worry related to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated symptoms. 670 adults from the Swedish general population reporting daily uncontrollable worry about CO-VID-19 and its possible consequences (e.g., illness, death, the economy, one's family) were randomised (1:1 ratio) to a 3-week self-guided, online cognitive behavioural intervention targeting dysfunctional COVID-19 worry and associated symptoms, or a waiting list of equal duration. The primary outcome measure was a COVID-19 adapted version of the Generalised Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale administered at baseline and weeks 1-3 (primary endpoint). Follow-up assessments were conducted 1 month after treatment completion. The trial was registered on ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT04341922) before inclusion of the first participant. The main pre-specified intention-to-treat analysis indicated significant reductions in COVID-19-related worry for the intervention group compared to the waiting list (β = 1.14, Z = 9.27, p < 0.001), corresponding to a medium effect size (bootstrapped d = 0.74 [95% CI: 0.58-0.90]). Improvements were also seen on all secondary measures, including mood, daily functioning, insomnia, and intolerance of uncertainty. Participant satisfaction was high. No serious adverse events were recorded. A brief digital and easily scalable self-guided psychological intervention can significantly reduce dysfunctional worry and associated behavioural symptoms related to the COVID-19 pandemic.