, , ,

Digital interventions can help relieve depressive symptoms

data from smartphones and wearable devices might be used to identify people with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

With a shortage of therapists, help with mental health problems is being sought from digital interventions, where elements of psychological treatment are offered via computer programs or mobile applications. According to a study, smart devices can help identify people with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Every year, 400 million people worldwide are affected by depression or anxiety, and the coronavirus pandemic has only increased the prevalence of mental health problems. At the same time, there is a shortage of psychotherapists. Digital interventions, where elements of psychological treatment are offered via computer programs or mobile applications, have been proposed as a solution.

In his doctoral thesis in the field of psychology, researcher Isaac Moshe investigated the effectiveness of digital interventions in treating mental health problems, with depressive symptoms in particular focus.

Tracking depression and anxiety with smart devices
One sub-study in the doctoral thesis examined whether symptoms of depression or anxiety can be identified from data collected by smartphones or wearable devices. A total of 60 adults who used an iPhone or an Oura Ring took part in the sub-study.

Based on the study, smartphone GPS data was predicted the user's depressive symptoms. Subjects who visited the same locations repeatedly had more depressive symptoms than those whose location had more variability. The data collected by smart rings indicated that the longer the person slept or spent time in bed on average, the more depressive symptoms they had. The ring data also revealed that the more frequently people woke up at night, the more symptoms of anxiety they had.
Digital interventions alleviate depressive symptoms
The most extensive sub-study of the doctoral thesis was an international collaboration that assessed the effectiveness of digital interventions in treating depression by conducting a meta-analysis of all previous studies. Digital interventions typically include videos, interactive exercises or text to deliver the core components of psychotherapy, which are then packaged into an online program or smartphone app.

The dataset was composed of 83 randomized controlled trials conducted between 1990 and 2020 involving 15,530 participants.
The findings indicate that digital interventions brought relief from depressive symptoms when they were offered in public or private healthcare settings. Digital interventions alleviated symptoms in people of all ages, regardless of depression severity or physical comorbidity.

Moshe points out that there are important caveats: in children and adolescents, digital interventions were less effective than in adults. Having human support alongside the digital interventions was also critical to people completing the programs and therefore getting the maximum benefits. Furthermore, the researchers felt that it was unclear whether digital interventions were indeed as effective as face-to-face psychotherapy, as so few comparative studies on the topic have so far been conducted.

Moshe believes that, overall, digital interventions could provide a valuable way to help meet the growing global demand for mental healthcare.

"They lower the barrier to accessing treatment, enabling anyone with a computer an internet connection to benefit from psychotherapy at a time and place that is convenient to them. Digital interventions also require much less time from therapists than traditional therapy, making it possible to shorten waiting lists and treat more people."
Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki)
8 replies
  1. Alireza noche
    Alireza noche says:

    I find this procedure brought to the digital world because of a lack of lubricant is both admirable and frightening.
    The patient needs a psychologist to share all his neurological problems with him and express his feelings and see a little hope and encouragement in his behavior so that he can continue for the rest of his life
    But in the digital world, there is no name of emotion and hope, and only the type of disease and length of treatment are prescribed to the patient.

  2. Mona javid
    Mona javid says:

    Hello, doctor, in my opinion, according to the future society, in the coming years, digital interventions will gradually increase and become more effective on people, however, traditional psychology has a greater effect on people because they understand clients and take them from counseling words. It can be much better

  3. Shirin farrokh
    Shirin farrokh says:

    Of course, it will solve the problem of speed in the treatment, but I think the effect is not as strong as face-to-face psychotherapy

  4. Fateme Alijanpoor
    Fateme Alijanpoor says:

    Hello, dear Professor Malehi, I think that these smartphones can help people in psychological treatments, and besides these aids, they can also be harmful if they are not properly controlled.

  5. fatemeh zare
    fatemeh zare says:

    Hello dear professor. As it turns out, digital devices can be a great help in understanding depression and other disorders, but I think they are more applicable to more mundane issues and are explored from more mundane aspects. They believe that digital causes people to spend too much time on abstract issues, when they can use it in a way that has a significant impact on their personality. Instead of regretting seeing fancy and fake showcases in cyberspace, it can be used for inspiration and ideas.

    Thank you, I am Fatemeh Zare, a student at Iranian University.

  6. hamidreza taheri
    hamidreza taheri says:

    Dear Dr Malihi,
    this article really helps us to know something about games and informations about psychological problems and help us to solve them.

  7. Niloofar Nikooie
    Niloofar Nikooie says:

    Interesting study!!! actually I’ve been recently thinking of some walking through games for instance Ps games to help people to solve their psychological problem/s or to teach them some coping technics and strategies to alleviate their qualities of life.
    Anyway this article was very inspiring for me. using smartphones and wearable devices to track people struggling with depression can be very useful especially for bipolar patients or patients with a history of Self-injurious behaviors to prevent or reducing the risk of Suicide.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

18 − six =