Familiarity with and intentions to use internet delivered mental health treatments among older rural adults

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Objectives: Older adults are the fastest growing age group in Australia, necessitating an increase in appropriate mental health services in the coming years. While Internet-delivered mental health treatments have been established as acceptable and efficacious among younger samples, little research has explored whether they would be similarly useful in older populations. Methods: The participants were part of the Australian Rural Mental Health study, which explores mental health and well-being in residents of non-metropolitan New South Wales. A postal survey was used to assess knowledge of and intentions to use Internet-delivered mental health treatments. Demographics, mental health, and frequency of Internet use were also measured. Results: The survey was completed by 950 adults aged 50–93. The sample was largely unfamiliar with Internet mental health services, with 75% reporting that they had never heard of them and a further 20% not knowing any details of what they involved. Intentions to use these services were also low, at 13.5%; however, this increased with level of familiarity. Respondents with higher psychological distress, higher education, and more frequent Internet use were significantly more likely to consider using Internet treatments. Conclusions: Among older adults, overall awareness of Internet-delivered mental health treatments appears to be limited; however, higher familiarity contributes to higher intentions to use these treatments. Importantly, respondents with higher distress and greater computer literacy were more likely to consider mental health treatments delivered via the Internet. Future research exploring strategies to increase the promotion of these services to older samples may further improve their perceptions and use.
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Handley, Tonelle
Perkins, David
Kay-Lambkin, Frances
Lewin, Terry
Kelly, Brian
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Journal Article
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UNSW Faculty