A new study conducted by an international team of researchers confirmed that smartphone-based mental health apps are capable of significantly reducing symptoms of depression.

The study, published in the journal World Psychiatry, showed that the interventions offered in these apps can potentially become a safe, accessible and effective treatment option for people suffering from depression and other mental health condition.

Smartphones for depression

For the study, researchers from National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), The University of Manchester, Harvard Medical School and the Black Dog Institute conducted a meta-analysis of 18 randomized control trials involving over 3,400 participants.

The different trials examined the efficacy of 22 different smartphone apps that offer digital interventions.

Participants were diagnosed with mental health symptoms and conditions, including, insomnia, anxiety, mild to moderate depression, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Interestingly, smartphone-based interventions tested in the control trials were able to reduce depressive symptoms.

The positive effects of the Smartphone Apps seem to be more effective in people with mild to moderate depression. These digital interventions as part of the “integrative medicine” approach for depression appear to be particularly useful for controlling symptoms of depression and improving the mood of the patients.

The result of the study clearly shows that smartphones are capable of helping people monitor, as well as understand and manage, their own mental health. Surprisingly, there is no significant difference between apps that apply principles of mindfulness and apps focusing on cognitive behavioral therapy, or the so-called mood monitoring programs.

The researchers observed that “self-contained” apps, or interventions solely based on the smartphone, have greater effects than apps used in tandem with other human or computerized aspects. However, the difference is not that significant.

App-based interventions

At present, psychotherapy and medications are the most common treatment for depression.

However, such treatments can be very costly or unavailable for patients, especially in some countries in which mental health disorders are not considered as a real medical condition.

With the result of the study, patients who do not have access to specialized facilities can easily download an app to monitor or manage their mental health. Furthermore, the accessibility of the smartphone-based interventions can help in eradicating some level of stigma relating to the other treatments for depression. Teens may not want to get clinical treatment for their depression or other mental health issues due to the fear that they might be excluded from their group or appear different to others. With these apps, teens can privately monitor and understand their condition, even from the comforts of their home.