Effectiveness of mobile mental health apps for youth understudied, report finds

More than 2 million mobile mental health apps have been developed, yet the effectiveness of these apps reaching their potential is understudied, according to an April 29 study published in JMIR Publications

The study reviewed the evidence on digital health interventions of young people between the ages of 10 and 24, with a focus on effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and generalizability in low-resource settings, like low- and middle-income countries.

Seven things to know about the study's findings:

  1. Around 1 in 5 adolescents experience a mental health disorder each year, but due to barriers in accessing and seeking care, most remain undiagnosed and untreated.

  2. More than 2 million web-based mental health apps have been developed in recent years to address a range of mental health issues.

  3. Digital interventions can be effective in supplementing traditional mental health treatment, but only a small portion of existing digital health platforms are evidence-based.

  4. Digital health technologies have the potential for addressing mental health in a cost-effective manner among children and young adults.

  5. There is evidence on the effectiveness of using digital cognitive behavioral therapy to treat anxiety and depression, but the effectiveness of other digital mental health interventions remain inconclusive.

  6. Despite the potential digital interventions have for increasing accessibility, there has been no study that has reported sample-specific metrics focused on low-resource settings.

  7. Interventions that had an in-person element with a professional, peer or parent were more effective, increased adherence and had lower dropout rates than fully automatized or self-administered interventions.

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