The study, which surveyed more 3,400 men and women and was conducted by researchers from Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Harvard Medical School, The University of Manchester and the Black Dog Institute, concluded that depression treatment apps were an effective way of dealing with depression.
According to the research, smartphone apps can be important tools, as they give people a non-stigmatizing and self-managing option for monitoring, understanding and managing their mental health issues.
“The majority of people in developed countries own smartphones, including younger people who are increasingly affected by depression. 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,” said the lead author, Joseph Firth.
The study, which surveyed adults ranging from 18 to 59 with a number of conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and insomnia, did not find a difference in the effectiveness between apps that applied the principals of mindfulness and those that used cognitive behavioral therapy, as both seemed to help respondents improve their moods.
“The data shows us that smartphones can help people monitor, understand and manage their own mental health. Using apps as part of an ‘integrative medicine’ approach for depression has been demonstrated to be particularly useful for improving mood and tackling symptoms in these patients,” said co-author and NICM deputy director, Professor Jerome Sarris.
Thus far, the data indicates such apps are most helpful to those with mild to moderate depression, as they have not yet studied the benefits for those with major depression.
The authors warn that apps should not replace traditional therapies or antidepressant medications.