Predictors and effects of usage of an online mindfulness intervention for distressed cancer patients: Usability study

Linda Cillessen*, Monique OM van de Ven, Félix R Compen, Else M Bisseling, Marije L van der Lee, Anne EM Speckens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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One in three cancer patients experience high psychological distress. Mindfulness-based interventions are effective in reducing psychological distress in this patient group. However, these interventions lack availability and flexibility, which may compromise participation in the intervention for cancer patients experiencing late symptoms like fatigue or pain. Therefore, mindfulness-based interventions are increasingly offered via the internet. However, little is known about the usage of these online mindfulness-based interventions.

The aim of this study was to (1) predict uptake of and adherence to online mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (eMBCT) using baseline patient characteristics (demographic, cancer-related, personality, and psychological variables) and (2) examine the relations between adherence and treatment outcomes in eMBCT for cancer patients.

A total of 125 cancer patients were assigned to eMBCT in a parent randomized controlled trial comparing MBCT and eMBCT with treatment as usual in distressed cancer patients. Various usage measures of eMBCT were automatically tracked within the online program. Based on activity of use, participants were classified as nonusers, minimal users, low users, and intended users. Questionnaires were used to assess baseline characteristics (preintervention) and outcomes (pre- and postintervention). To answer the research questions, data were analyzed with t tests, χ2 tests, and linear regression models.

Based on weekly activity, participants were classified as nonusers (n=17, 13.6%), who completed no exercises in MBCT; minimal users (n=31, 24.8%), who completed at least one exercise of one to three sessions; low users (n=12, 9.6%), who completed at least one exercise of four to seven sessions; and intended users (n=65, 52.0%), who completed at least one exercise of eight to nine sessions. Nonusers had more fear of cancer recurrence at baseline than users (uptake), and intended users were more conscientious than minimal and low users (adherence). Intended users reported a larger reduction in psychological distress and more improvement of positive mental health (ie, emotional, psychological, and social well-being) after the intervention than other participants.

This study showed that adherence was related to improved patient outcomes. Patients with strong fear of recurrence or low levels of conscientiousness should receive extra attention, as they are less likely to respectively start or complete eMBCT. Future research may focus on the development of flexible and adaptive eMBCT programs to fit individual needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e17526
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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