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How Smartphone treatments can reduce symptoms of depression

Ireland was shocked when its much-beloved singer Sinead O‘Connor announced her 17year old son was missing. Shane had been hospitalized after two attempted suicides just 7 days earlier. Within 24 hours, he was found dead.

This mother is not alone. And COVID-19 isolation is exacerbating the problem globally as mental health needs grow exponentially. There are of course different types of depression and different levels of severity. For example, Harvard Health outlines at least six types. While not a doctor, many treatments for depression are available - but do they work? And do they work in time? While not a cure, new research has been published in the Psychological Bulletin by Isaac Moshe of the University of Helsinki.

This problem is acute. Lead author of the paper, Moshe also suggests that less than 1 in 5 people receive appropriate treatment for depression. That rises to less than 1 in 27 in low-income settings due to the lack of trained healthcare providers.

With colleagues, he conducted a meta-analysis of 83 studies that tested online applications for depression from the 1990s. The review was significant with over 15,000 participants.

Research findings suggest that a technology-based option may help as a short-term measure to ease these symptoms. Moshe sees this as a way of meeting an unmet need. The approach differs from video conferencing patient engagement.

It also found that the online treatments that involved some sort of human element were the most effective in reducing depression symptoms. For example, when interaction included feedback on assignments or technical assistance.

Research found no significant difference in outcomes between smartphone-based apps and computer- and Internet-based intervention

In a world that clamours for greater connection and attention to mental health, perhaps this new technology based tool is a useful one in the ongoing search for peace of mind and a positive state of mind.


Isaac Moshe, Yannik Terhorst, Paula Philippi, Matthias Domhardt, Pim Cuijpers, Ioana Cristea, Laura Pulkki-Råback, Harald Baumeister, Lasse B. Sander. Digital interventions for the treatment of depression: A meta-analytic review.. Psychological Bulletin, 2021; 147 (8): 749 DOI: 10.1037/bul0000334

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