Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia have developed Toolbox, which provides users with a list of professionally reviewed mental health apps.
Each app is precisely categorised into sub groups such as physical activity, mood, social relationships or anxiety to help users find the app best suited to their needs.
Lead researcher Niranjan Bidargaddi said Toolbox was the first step in reforming public health as an increasing number of young people turned to online forums and app stores instead of conventional face-to-face interaction.
“The challenge is figuring out which apps are effective and safe,” he said.
“Apps need to have the correct strategies and content so instead of just relying on user reviewed services, we included a professionally reviewed list to help young adults.
“Mental health issues are very broad so it’s important to find the app that best suits each category.”
In a study of more than 380 young people aged 16 to 25, participants were randomly assigned to either a group that used the Toolbox and apps or to a wait list.
They were then asked to download and use the recommended apps for a period of four weeks. Participants were also asked to regularly monitor their mood, energy, sleep and rest through an online study tool instead of a standard questionnaire evaluation.
Those who used Toolbox demonstrated an improved mental status than those who did not.
“The apps are a new way of delivering public health interventions,” Associate Professor Bidargaddi said.
“Because they are already available, there needs to be more research into understanding what works and how we can guide people from an effectiveness point of view, helping them choose the right things at the right time.”
This latest study was the first to evaluate the efficacy of readily available mobile apps for health.
The platform, which has more than 21,000 members, was built as part of the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre in collaboration with ReachOut.com.
The results of the study were published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
South Australia’s capital Adelaide has three long-standing public universities, Flinders University, University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, each of which are consistently rated highly in the international higher education rankings.Jump to next article