A clinical study published May 18, 2012 in "Trials" shows that smartphone apps can be used to fight depression. The study was the first of its kind.
The study focused on the app Viary, a product of Hoa’s Toolshop in Sweden. Hoa, a clinical psychologist, was inspired to create the app after seeing how seamlessly smartphones were woven into the lives of people in Japan, according to VentureBeat. The article explained that Hoa saw smartphones’ potential to change personal beliefs into actions.
Research took place during an 8-week period. Participants had to score as depressed on the Becks Depression Inventory, a clinically accepted measurement of depression. The mean score of the participants was 25, putting most in the moderately depressed category.
During the study, 120 people were split into two groups. One used a smartphone app designed to promote mindfulness. The other used Viary, designed for behavior adjustment. Participants journaled about their experiences on the weekends, focusing on times when they felt particularly good or bad. There was no clinical interaction apart from a short journal response by a psychology student.
Fifty-three point one percent of users of the mindfulness app found their depression lessened. The authors of the study explain the high numbers as a product of journaling, the response of the psychology student, and daily use of the mindfulness app. Regular application of mindfulness has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of depression.
Seventy-three point five percent of Viary users found depression eliminated at the end of the 8-week study. Viary prompted users to engage in depression-lessening behaviors, which alleviated the symptoms of depression by the end of the trial. According to the website, Viary “is built on the principle of continuous and direct feedback” since patients are able to view a response to their actions via smartphone.
The report is titled "Behavioral activation-based guided self-help treatment administered through a smartphone application: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial" and was submitted for consideration in November of 2011.
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