Evaluating the efficacy of self-monitoring mobile apps in youth mental health: A randomised controlled trial

Presentation First Author: 
Rachel Kenny

Introduction: Preliminary research suggests that mobile app based interventions have the potential to improve mental health outcomes in young people (Donker et al., 2013), however to date there has been a lack of rigorously designed research evaluating the effectiveness of such apps.

Objectives: The present study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of a mobile app designed to foster positive youth mental health through two mechanisms; (i) by increasing emotional self-awareness (ESA) and (ii) by promoting the use of positive coping strategies.

Method: Participants were adolescents aged 15 – 18 years recruited from ten second-level schools in Ireland. Schools were randomly assigned to the intervention condition (N=212, 64% female) or the control condition (N=175, 73% female). Those in the intervention condition used a mental health mobile app over a four-week period. All participants completed standardised measures of emotional distress, well-being, ESA and coping strategies at pre-test, post-test and 8-10 week follow up. Additionally, the app captured ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data pertaining to participants’ mood ratings and app usage as well as GPS and accelerometer data used to infer sleep patterns and risky behaviour.

Results: Linear regressions indicated that higher levels of ESA predicted lower emotional distress (adj. r2 = .167, ? = -.412 p
Conclusion: Findings suggest that ESA and coping strategies are appropriate mechanisms to target for promoting positive youth mental health, however the use of unsupported mobile apps alone may not be enough to elicit intra-personal changes in these constructs. These findings have important implications for the mobile health field in light of the significant financial investment currently being made in this area.

Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
10th Oct 2015
Type of presentation: 
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