Applying Ensemble Machine Learning Models to Predict Individual Response to a Digitally Delivered Worry Postponement Intervention


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a prevalent mental health disorder that often goes untreated. A core aspect of GAD is worry, which is associated with negative health outcomes, accentuating a need for simple treatments for worry. The present study leveraged pretreatment individual differences to predict personalized treatment response to a digital intervention. Linear mixed-effect models were used to model changes in daytime and nighttime worry duration and frequency for 163 participants who completed a six-day worry postponement intervention. Ensemble-based machine learning regression and classification models were implemented to predict changes in worry across the intervention. Model feature importance was derived using SHapley Additive exPlanation (SHAP). Moderate predictive performance was obtained for predicting changes in daytime worry duration (test r2 = 0.221, AUC = 0.77) and nighttime worry frequency (test r2 = 0.164, AUC = 0.72), while poor predictive performance was obtained for nighttime worry duration and daytime worry frequency. Baseline levels of worry and subjective health complaints were most important in driving model predictions. A complete-case analysis was leveraged to analyze the present data, which was collected from participants that were Dutch and majority female. This study suggests that treatment response to a digital intervention for GAD can be accurately predicted using baseline characteristics. Particularly, this worry postponement intervention may be most beneficial for individuals with high baseline worry but fewer subjective health complaints. The present findings highlight the complexities of and need for further research into daily worry dynamics and the personalizable utility of digital interventions.

Journal of Affective Disorders