Metacognitive therapy home-based self-help for anxiety and depression in cardiovascular disease patients in the UK: A single-blind randomised controlled trial

Adrian Wells, David Reeves, Calvin Heal, Peter Fisher, Patrick Doherty, Linda Davies, Anthony Heagerty, Lora Capobianco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Anxiety and depression in cardiac rehabilitation (CR) are associated with greater morbidity, mortality, and increased healthcare costs. Current psychological interventions within CR have small effects based on low-quality studies of clinic-based interventions with limited access to home-based psychological support. We tested the effectiveness of adding self-help metacognitive therapy (Home-MCT) to CR in reducing anxiety and depression in a randomised controlled trial (RCT).

METHODS AND FINDINGS: We ran a single-blind, multi-centre, two-arm RCT. A total of 240 CR patients were recruited from 5 NHS-Trusts across North West England between April 20, 2017 and April 6, 2020. Patients were randomly allocated to Home-MCT+CR (n = 118, 49.2%) or usual CR alone (n = 122, 50.8%). Randomisation was 1:1 via randomised blocks within hospital site, balancing arms on sex and baseline Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) scores. The primary outcome was the HADS total score at posttreatment (4-month follow-up). Follow-up data collection occurred between August 7, 2017 and July 20, 2020. Analysis was by intention to treat. The 4-month outcome favoured the MCT intervention group demonstrating significantly lower end of treatment scores (HADS total: adjusted mean difference = -2.64 [-4.49 to -0.78], p = 0.005, standardised mean difference (SMD) = 0.38). Sensitivity analysis using multiple imputation (MI) of missing values supported these findings. Most secondary outcomes also favoured Home-MCT+CR, especially in reduction of post-traumatic stress symptoms (SMD = 0.51). There were 23 participants (19%) lost to follow-up in Home-MCT+CR and 4 participants (3%) lost to follow-up in CR alone. No serious adverse events were reported. The main limitation is the absence of longer term (e.g., 12-month) follow-up data.

CONCLUSION: Self-help home-based MCT was effective in reducing total anxiety/depression in patients undergoing CR. Improvement occurred across most psychological measures. Home-MCT was a promising addition to cardiac rehabilitation and may offer improved access to effective psychological treatment in cardiovascular disease (CVD) patients.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004161
Number of pages19
JournalPlos medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 Wells et al.


  • Humans
  • Cardiovascular Diseases/therapy
  • Depression/psychology
  • Anxiety/diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • England
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Quality of Life

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