A team of experts found that app-based treatment methods for depression can significantly ease symptoms of depression. Can this accessible method help the millions of people around the world who are suffering from the disorder?
This year, the World Health Organization declared depression as the world's leading cause of illness and disability. In fact, the latest Global Burden of Disease study revealed major depression as one of the 10 leading causes of death in all but four countries worldwide.
Depression is a condition that is often misunderstood, underrated and shrouded in stigma. As such, health organizations and even companies all over the world are continuous in educating the public and looking for ways to diagnose, help and treat people with the condition. From yoga and even sleep deprivation, experts are looking at all sorts of ways to ease depression symptoms.
A new report is now confirming that app-based treatments are effective in easing the symptoms of depression. The team of researchers from Australia's National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), The University of Manchester, Harvard Medical School, and the Black Dog Institute studied 18 randomized trials which examined 22 different smartphone-based mental health interventions and involved 3,414 participants aged 18-59 with conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, insomnia, major depression, and mild to moderate depression.
Their main findings show that app-based treatments elicited positive effects on depressive symptoms, and could potentially be significant tools in mental health management. Specifically, the researchers found that the apps are best suited for individuals with mild to moderate depression. Further, apps which focus on mental health showed greater effects on depression outcomes compared with apps that focus on cognitive training.
By all means, researchers aren't implying that app-based treatments alone could replace traditional therapies and antidepressant medications, but the importance of their findings lies in having yet another tool that can help people around the world to somehow have quick and easy access to something that can help manage their mental health.
Further, with the array of mental health management apps already launched, their research can help to begin identifying which apps actually work, and which apps do not.
Lead author of the paper, Joseph Firth, of NICM describes the importance of these findings especially with regards to the unusual method's accessibility:
"Combined with the rapid technological advances in this area, these 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."
The study is published in the journal World Psychiatry.