Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial to explore the effects of personalized lifestyle advices and tandem skydives on pleasure in anhedonic young adults


Anhedonia is generally defined as the inability to feel pleasure in response to experiences that are usually enjoyable. Anhedonia is one of the two core symptoms of depression and is a major public health concern. Anhedonia has proven particularly difficult to counteract and predicts poor treatment response generally. It has often been hypothesized that anhedonia can be deterred by a healthy lifestyle. However, it is quite unlikely that a one-size-fits-all approach will be effective for everyone. In this study the effects of personalized lifestyle advice based on observed individual patterns of lifestyle behaviors and experienced pleasure will be examined. Further, we will explore whether a tandem skydive following the personalized lifestyle advice positively influences anhedonic young adults' abilities to carry out the recommended lifestyle changes, and whether this ultimately improves their self-reported pleasure. Methods - Our study design is an exploratory intervention study, preceded by a cross-sectional survey as a screening instrument. For the survey, 2000 young adults (18-24 years old) will be selected from the general population. Based on survey outcomes, 72 individuals (36 males and 36 females) with persistent anhedonia (i.e., more than two months) and 60 individuals (30 males and 30 females) without anhedonia (non-anhedonic control group) will be selected for the intervention study. The non-anhedonic control group will fill out momentary assessments of pleasure and lifestyle behaviors three times a day, for one month. The anhedonic individuals will fill out momentary assessments for three consecutive months. After the first month, the anhedonic individuals will be randomly assigned to (1) no intervention, (2) lifestyle advice only, (3) lifestyle advice plus tandem skydive. The personalized lifestyle advice is based on patterns observed in the first month. Discussion - The present study is the first to examine the effects of a personalized lifestyle advice and tandem skydive on pleasure in anhedonic young adults. Results of the present study may improve treatment for anhedonia, if the interventions are found to be effective.

BMC Psychiatry
Vera E. Heininga
Vera E. Heininga

Researcher at University of Groningen