Depressed? There are smartphone apps for that — and they can actually help you cope with mild to moderate forms of the condition, according to a study.
Overall, the smartphone apps examined in the Australian-led research “significantly” reduced people’s depressive symptoms, according to the findings published in journal World Psychiatry. Apps designed to treat mild to moderate depression showed the most promise.
“The data shows us that smartphones can help people monitor, understand and manage their own mental health,” said co-author Jerome Sarris, of Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine.
“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.”
Authors of the review note that further study is needed, but findings are promising, especially since depression is so widespread. Depression is the most common type of mental illness, affecting more than 26% of the U.S. adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In 18 randomized controlled trials, investigators analyzed 22 different smartphone-based mental health treatments. Subjects included 3,400 men and women ages 18-59 with various conditions that ranged from major depression, mild to moderate depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and insomnia.
The new study stands in contrast to earlier studies in which depression treatment apps were shown to be ineffective.
Authors of the new study caution that there is currently no evidence to suggest that using apps alone can outperform standard psychological therapies or reduce the need for antidepressant medications.
It has been estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease.