- A novel
suite of 13 mini-apps called IntelliCare has been designed to tackle
problems of depression and anxiety.
app offers exercises to de-stress, reduce self-criticism, worrying and
methods to make life more meaningful.
can use the apps on smartphones for at least 4 times a day and experience
significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Advice on mental health can
now be sought on the smartphone using a novel suite of 13 mini-apps called
On using this app at least
four times in a day, participants reported significantly less depression and anxiety.
‘Participants who used the IntelliCare apps experienced about a 50% decrease in the severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms.’
The apps offer exercises to:
- Reduce self-criticism
- Reduce worrying
- Make life feel more meaningful
- Create mantras to highlight strengths
- Learn strategies for a good night's sleep and more
The problem with most apps
designed for mental health is that they either offer a single strategy to feel
better or provide too many features that make them difficult to navigate.
Users often get
bored or overwhelmed and may stop using the apps after a few weeks.
Depression and Anxiety
is a condition where a
person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life
More than 20% of Americans
have significant symptoms of depression or anxiety each year, but only around
20% of people with a mental health problem get adequate treatment.
In 2014, around 15.7 million
adults equating to 6.7% of all American adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had
experienced at least one major depressive symptom.
The lifetime risk of
depression is about 17%. As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of
100 teens may have serious depression.
are the most
common mental illness in the United States. It affects 40 million adults or 18%
of the population in the United States who are at the age of 18 and older.
Anxiety disorders cost the
U.S economy more than $42 billion a year.
The research team enrolled
105 participants for the study. Among them, 96 completed the study.
Participants had access to
the 13 IntelliCare apps from Google Play and received eight weeks of coaching
for the use of IntelliCare. Coaching included an initial phone call plus two or
more text messages per week over the eight weeks.
During the 8 week long study,
participants used the IntelliCare interactive apps on an average of
195 times. This means the participants used it four times a day.
They spent an average of one
minute using each app, with longer times for apps with relaxation videos.
The 96 participants who
completed the research study reported that they experienced about a 50%
decrease in the severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms.
These reductions are comparable
to results expected in clinical practice using psychotherapy or with that seen
using antidepressant medication.
"We designed these apps
so they fit easily into people's lives and could be used as simply as apps to
find a restaurant or directions," said lead study author David Mohr,
professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Behavioral
Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University Feinberg School of
"Some of the
participants kept using them after the study because they felt that the apps
helped them feel better," Mohr said. "There were many apps to try
during the study, so there was a sense of novelty."
The IntelliCare apps were
designed by Northwestern clinicians based on validated techniques used by
Some of the IntelliCare apps
Feats- Motivates the user to add worthwhile and
rewarding activities daily to increase overall satisfaction in life.
the user unwind with audio recordings by guiding them through
exercises to de-stress and worry less.
Designed to ease the user into a good night's rest.
the user to create motivating mantras to highlight the strengths
"Using digital tools for
mental health is emerging as an important part of our future," Mohr said.
"These are designed to help the millions of people who want support but
can't get to a therapist's office."
The IntelliCare algorithm
recommends trying new apps each week to avoid boredom and to keep the
The researchers hope
participants will provide confidential feedback, that will be used to further
develop the system and provide more personalized treatment.
"We now have evidence
these approaches will likely work," Mohr said. "They are designed to
teach many of the same skills therapists to teach patients. Different apps are expected to
work for different people. The goal is to find what's right for you."
The motivation to try something new would have helped improve some
of the participants who enrolled in the trial.
Researchers have now launched a larger trial, including 300
The study was conducted by a
research team from Northwestern University and published in the
Journal of Medical Internet Research
- David Mohr et al. IntelliCare: An Eclectic, Skills-Based App Suite for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety. Journal of Medical Internet Research; (2017) DOI: 10.2196/jmir.6645
- Depression - (https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression)
- Facts & Statistics - (https://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics)