Racial Differences in the Effectiveness of Internet-Delivered Mental Health Care

Charles R. Jonassaint, Bea Herbeck Belnap, Yan Huang, Jordan F. Karp, Kaleab Z. Abebe, Bruce L. Rollman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) can improve mental health outcomes in White populations; however, it is unknown whether racial and ethnic minority populations receive clinical benefits from cCBT. Objective: To study race differences in the impact of cCBT use on mental health outcomes among White and African American primary care patients. Design: Secondary analysis of a three-arm randomized controlled clinical trial. Participants: Primary care physicians (PCPs) referred 2,884 patients aged 18–75; 954 met eligibility criteria (including elevated mood and/or anxiety symptoms indicated as a score ≥ 10 on Patient Health Questionnaire or Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale); 704 were randomized in 3:3:1 ratio to receive either (1) the cCBT program (cCBT-only), (2) cCBT plus access to an Internet Support Group (cCBT+ISG), or (3) their PCP’s usual care (UC). After exclusions, this study analyzed 689 patients: 590 receiving cCBT, in the combined cCBT-only and cCBT+ISG groups (91 African American, 499 White), and 99 receiving UC (22 African American, 77 White). Intervention(s): We used the Beating the Blues cCBT program that consisted of eight 50-min Internet-delivered interactive sessions and “homework” assignments to complete between weekly sessions. College graduate-level care coaches provided six months of remote support. Main Measure(s): After prior analyses demonstrated no effect of the ISG program, we combined the cCBT-only and cCBT+ISG groups (cCBT) to compare to UC at 6-month follow-up. Controlling for sociodemographic factors, baseline symptoms, and treatment arm, we examined race differences for impact of cCBT versus UC on the mental health–related quality-of-life (Short-form 12 Health Survey), and Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) anxiety, and depression. Results: Compared to UC, cCBT had no effect on quality of life (d = 0.10; p = 0.40), depression (d = − 0.19; p = 0.10), or anxiety (d = − 0.16; p = 0.18) for Whites. However, for African American patients, cCBT was associated with significant 6-month decrease in depression (d = − 0.47, p < 0.01) and anxiety scores (d = − 0.54, p < 0.01). Conclusions: cCBT may be an efficient and scalable first step to eliminating disparities in mental health care. Trial Registration: Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01482806. https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01482806?term=rollman&rank=4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-497
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • anxiety
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • depression
  • eHealth
  • healthcare disparities
  • mental health
  • minority health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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