Online Program

Is there an (Evidence-based) App for That? A Review of Mental Health Management Apps Available for Adolescents and Young Adults

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Jessica Spigner, MS, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
William Parker Hinson, MPH, CPH, Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
C├ęsar Escobar-Viera, MD, MPH, College of Public Health and Health Professions, Department of Health Services Research, Management and Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Mark Hart, Ed.D., M.A.L.S., Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
BackgroundWhile most mental health disorders have an age of onset in adolescence, young people are less likely to receive specialized services. Smartphone apps can reduce mental health access barriers for youth by promoting self-management, facilitating information exchange, and providing cost-effective, personalized interventions. Our objective was to conduct a systematic review of the most popular commercially available mental health apps from the Google Android and Apple iTunes stores.

Methods: A descriptive analysis was conducted of the ten most popular English language apps under combinations of specific search terms (i.e. mental health, teen, college). App listings and developer websites were coded for descriptive information (i.e. size, date of update, price), in addition to the following outcome variables: target age and concern, type of diagnostic, informational, or treatment resource, user engagement approach, level of professional involvement, privacy protection, and degree of scientific support.

Results: 300 apps were reviewed. Provision of personalized mental health resources, interactive treatment modules and progress tracking were the most common user-engagement approaches. While the majority of the apps collected sensitive user data, very few reported using privacy-protection measures. The most commonly described evidence-based content was cognitive-behavior therapy for anxiety and depression. Only 2 apps had documented research to support their efficacy for use with youth or emerging adults.

Discussion: Based on this review there remains a need for mHealth interventions targeting adolescents and young adults with mental health concerns that have been scientifically validated, incorporate the expertise of a mental health professional, and use security protocols to protect user privacy.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Other professions or practice related to public health
Provision of health care to the public
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the extent to which the most popular commercially available mental health management apps address the needs of adolescents or emerging adults, contain scientifically supported content, incorporate the expertise of a mental health professional, and have documented efficacy.

Keyword(s): Child/Adolescent Mental Health, Information Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology with a focus in child and adolescent mental health. I have extensive experience promoting the mental health of children and families. Additionally, I have been involved in multiple research projects related to mHealth and child and family psychological interventions.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.