The Empowering Role of Web-Based Help Seeking on Depressive Symptoms: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Nicole Bizzotto, Laura Marciano, Gert Jan de Bruijn, Peter Johannes Schulz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Most research on web-based help seeking for mental health problems has focused on the antecedents of this behavior. Therefore, little is known about the outcomes of web-based help seeking in general or in specific mental health issues. Objective: This study was a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature on the antecedents and consequences of web-based help-seeking behaviors for depressive symptoms. Methods: A systematic literature search was carried out in 6 scientific databases, leading to 48 studies (for a total of 314,921 participants) included in the qualitative synthesis and 19 included in the meta-analysis. Results: The results indicated a positive relationship between depressive symptoms and web-based help-seeking behaviors through online support groups (r=0.089; P=.009), and Generation Z (r=0.102; P=.008) tended to participate in support groups more than previous generations. In addition, web-based help seeking was positively related to empowerment (r=0.245; P=.004). Other forms of support reported included the internet and specific self-help tools, but no significant relationships were found with depressive symptoms. Conclusions: More studies examining the outcomes are needed, together with a more rigorous assessment of web-based help-seeking behaviors. Ultimately, we propose a summary framework for the literature on this topic, including the antecedents, patterns of use, and outcomes of web-based help seeking in the context of depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere36964
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation under grants 200396 and P500PS_202974. The authors acknowledge the assistance of Stefano Giani (University of Amsterdam) in the systematic literature search. Authors also thank Jasmin Brummer for her help in the title and abstract screening.

Publisher Copyright:
©Nicole Bizzotto, Laura Marciano, Gert-Jan de Bruijn, Peter Johannes Schulz.


  • depressive symptoms
  • empowerment
  • internet
  • mental health
  • support groups
  • web-based help-seeking


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