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


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


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


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