BACKGROUND: Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) of mental health symptoms may influence the symptoms that it measures, i.e. assessment reactivity. In the field of depression, EMA reactivity has received little attention. We aim to investigate whether EMA of depressive symptoms induces assessment reactivity. Reactivity will be operationalised as an effect of EMA on depressive symptoms measured by a retrospective questionnaire, and, secondly, as a change in response rate and variance of the EMA ratings.
METHODS: This study is a 12-week randomised controlled trial comprising three groups: group 1 carries out EMA of mood and completes a retrospective questionnaire, group 2 carries out EMA of how energetic they feel and completes a retrospective questionnaire, group 3 is the control group, which completes only the retrospective questionnaire. The retrospective questionnaire (Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale; CES-D) assesses depressive symptoms and is administered at baseline, 6 weeks after baseline and 12 weeks after baseline. We aim to recruit 160 participants who experience mild to moderate depressive symptoms, defined as a Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) score of 5 to 15. This study is powered to detect a small between-groups effect, where no clinically relevant effect is defined as the effect size margin -0.25< d <0.25.
DISCUSSION: To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate whether self-rated EMA of depressive symptoms could induce assessment reactivity among mildly depressed individuals.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Netherlands Trial Register NTR5803. Registered 12 April 2016. http://www.trialregister.nl/trialreg/admin/rctview.asp?TC=5803 .