How does my book compare to antidepressants? We put it to the test.

It’s about six months since I put the finishing touches to my book “Nudge Your Way To Happiness,” which many Moodnudges readers have bought. I’m grateful.

Right now, though, I’d like to tell you about a fascinating research project that’s been running in the background.

It’s been fun and illuminating to put the book to the test, by getting a group of Moodnudges readers to work their way through it for 30 days, and also to take a standard test of depression before and after doing so.

By asking people to take the same depression test twice, we were able to see what effect the book had.2016-12-11

The test we used was a measure called the PHQ-9 (the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire), often used by health professionals.

The PHQ-9 produces a score between 0 and 27 by having someone answer questions based on what might be considered the “official” symptoms of clinical depression.

The higher someone scores, the more depressed they are, and the rule of thumb for doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists is that a reduction in score of 5 points or more over a period of four weeks is an indication that a treatment such as psychotherapy or medication is working.

So how did the book do when we tested it with the same measure that’s used to judge traditional treatments?

Well, we began with 31 participants who had at least moderate depression, and an average PHQ-9 score of 14.

After 30 days, their average score had fallen to 7.1, a reduction of 6.9 points, placing it on a par with the best that might be expected from antidepressants.

For me, this was encouraging news.

What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was that those in the sample who started out most seriously depressed did even better than average.

Their scores were reduced by 10 points – twice what would would be regarded as a good outcome for antidepressants or psychotherapy.

The research comes with a few caveats, of course.

It was a small sample. There was no control group. And, the study was led by me, the author, when it’s better for research to be run by an independent third party.

For a pilot study, however, I believe it demonstrates that the book shows great promise.

Who knows, perhaps this will inspire researchers elsewhere to run their own independent research?

I’d welcome that.

In the meantime, I’m keen to share the results, so I asked my good friend, the journalist Tony Rocca, to write a one-page story about the work.

You can download Tony’s piece here:

I’ll also paste the text at the foot of this message.

Please feel very free to pass Tony’s article onto others – perhaps people who might benefit from the book themselves, or those who could be interested for other reasons.

They might be a therapist, for example, or could be caring for someone who may benefit from the book.

This would help me, and I think it will help others too.

Finally, there are also some nice in-depth reviews of “Nudge Your Way To Happiness” on the Amazon website, where you can also order a copy of the book –

It might even make a good Christmas present for someone.

PS – The PDF version of Tony Rocca’s piece about the book includes images and a helpful graph, but if you’re in a rush, here’s the text that’s contained in it:

Overcoming depression remains one of healthcare’s greatest chall-enges, with no magic bullet in sight for a condition affecting 350 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization. Therefore anything approaching a new, effective, treatment is to be welcomed – especially one not linked to medication.

Such a prospect now exists. A breakthrough idea has brought remarkable improvements to sufferers on a par with the best they might expect from taking antidepressants. Tests made over a 30-day period using exactly the same techniques as those monitoring the effectiveness of drugs show:

• Recovery began immediately whereas it commonly takes up to six weeks with medication.

• The most seriously depressed experienced the biggest lift of all.

Participants in a pilot study followed a new self-help book that takes an ingenious approach to the age-old problem. Each day over 30 days they tested their own sense of well-being, tracking progress on a graph.

They were then directed to a specific mood “nudge” to match their feelings (one of three immediate actions based on proven psychology, offered daily). “So, on days when they might be feeling pretty good, their nudge would suggest a relatively ambitious mood-building activity,” says the book’s creator, Jon Cousins. “On less-good days they’d be encouraged to take some more gently appropriate action.”

Cousins started working in the mental health field to beat depression he’d suffered for three decades. He has been innovating in emotional well-being after a successful career in advertising in Britain and is now respected as a credible pioneer by healthcare professionals in both the UK and USA.

When the British government recently called for new ideas for health apps to help patients make informed decisions about their care it received more than 500 nominations.

The standout winner was an online service he invented, Moodscope, that has over 30,000 users today.

Following these early tests the world can only wish him the same success for his recently published book, Nudge Your Way To Happiness.

Cousins is not of course suggesting that someone with serious depression shouldn’t consult a professional.

But doesn’t it make sense to at least try an immediate self-administered fix?

2 thoughts on “How does my book compare to antidepressants? We put it to the test.

  1. Congratulations, Jon. You have made such a difference to so many lives, including mine.
    Merry Christmas, to you and yours – and THANK YOU XX

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