Smart phone apps are an effective treatment option for depression, a finding which may pave the way for safe and accessible interventions for the millions of people with the mental disorder, researchers have confirmed.
The results showed that smart phones open up non-stigmatising and self-managing avenues of care for the people with depression because smart phones can help them monitor, understand and manage their own mental health.
“The majority of people in developed countries own smartphones, including younger people who are increasingly affected by depression,” said lead author Joseph Firth, postdoctoral research fellow at Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM).
“Smartphone devices may ultimately be capable of providing instantly accessible and highly effective treatments for depression, reducing the societal and economic burden of this condition worldwide,” Firth added.
Importantly, no difference was found in apps which apply principles of mindfulness compared to cognitive behavioural therapy or mood monitoring programmes.
Apps, which are used as an “integrative medicine” approach, can be particularly useful for improving mood and tackling symptoms in patients with a range of mental health symptoms and conditions including major depression, mild to moderate depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and insomnia, the researchers said in the paper published in the journal World Psychiatry.
“Given the multitude of apps available - many of them unregulated - it’s critical that we now unlock which specific app attributes reap the greatest benefits, to help ensure that all apps available to people with depression are effective,” emphasised co-author Jennifer Nicholas, doctoral student at the Black Dog Institute-a Sydney based not-for profit organisation.
For the study, the team systematically reviewed 18 randomised controlled trials which examined a total of 22 different smartphones-delivered mental health interventions.
The studies involved more than 3,400 male and female participants between the ages of 18-59.