Researchers Review Evidence Supporting the Efficacy of Mobile Mental Health Apps and Find Most Lacking

Excerpted from The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), volume 15, issue 11, 2013

The rapid growth in the use of mobile phone applications (apps) provides the opportunity to increase access to evidence-based mental health care.  A comprehensive literature search (2008-2013) was conducted and included trials that examined the effects of mental health apps delivered on mobile devices with a pre- to posttest design or compared with a control group.

In total, 5464 abstracts were identified. Of those, 8 papers describing 5 apps targeting depression, anxiety, and substance abuse met the inclusion criteria. Four apps provided support from a mental health professional. Results showed significant reductions in depression, stress, and substance use. Mental health apps have the potential to be effective and may significantly improve treatment accessibility. However, the majority of apps that are currently available lack scientific evidence about their efficacy.

The difference in the volume of commercial apps compared to the small number of tested evidence-based apps is striking. It warrants the need for public education and further development and research into evidence-based mental health apps and consideration of industry regulation. To read the full Journal of Medical Internet Research article, click here.



ORCAS’s long history of receiving NIH funding to develop scientifically-validated mobile health intervention sets us apart from the vast majority of other mHealth applications on the market, as shown from this review. MoodHacker has been tested through a randomized control trial and shown to be effective for activating new positive behaviors and reducing depression symptoms. It also found the more the program was used, the better the results and was shown to be especially effective with individuals having access to EAP services.


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