Young people may not be getting the mental health support they need due to a lack of trust in smartphone apps that provide these services, a study suggests.
Questions about the effectiveness of apps or online resources for managing mental health also prevent young people from using them, experts say.
Researchers say if concerns about trust and usefulness could be addressed, young people would be more likely to use a digital mental health resource to help them deal with issues such as stress, anxiety and low mood .
According to experts, around one in five people between the ages of 17 and 24 struggle with managing their mental health.
Digital mental health interventions are increasingly being touted as a solution because they are convenient, accessible and, in many cases, free.
Available services include mindfulness and meditation apps, screening apps – which aim to determine your mood via an online questionnaire – and treatment apps offering online therapy. Tutorials or online courses to help people manage their mental well-being are also widely available.
However, the use of these tools is low among young people. The University of Edinburgh study is the first to assess what motivates them to use these resources,
The researchers surveyed 248 young people between the ages of 17 and 25 and used statistical models to assess their attitude towards technologies, what they consider before using them and their prior engagement.
They found that participants were relatively neutral towards the idea of digital mental health interventions.
If they perceived the technology as trustworthy and useful, the researchers found that there was a weak to moderate positive association with higher intentions to use a resource.
Perceived ease of use and mental health needs did not make a noticeable difference in youth’s intentions to use a resource.
Overall, the researchers found only moderate levels of acceptance of mental health technologies based on group experiences and perceptions, which they believe may represent a barrier to service uptake. by young people.
The researchers hope these findings will help shape the development of technologies to ensure they maximize the potential of digital tools to address youth mental health challenges.
Digital interventions only present a viable solution for young people if they are trusted and seen as useful by those who need them. These findings suggest that a focus should be on developing trustworthy digital health interventions, with evidence of their utility and effectiveness, to improve their uptake among young people. »
Dr Vilas Sawrikar, University of Edinburgh School of Health and Social Sciences.
The study is published in Health Policy and Technology. An open-access version of the article is available here:
An expert from JISC – a non-profit organization that provides technology support to higher education and research in the UK – contributed to the study.
Ms. Kellie Mote, Assistive Technology Specialist at JISC, said: “Service designers and application developers for digital interventions need to provide quality evidence and examples of real use cases. Data security and management safeguards should be transparent. In the same way that a reputable clinician would not recommend a drug or talk therapy with a thin evidence base, we must apply a similar level of rigor to digital interventions. »
Sawrikar, V & Mote, K., (2022) Technology acceptance and trust: Overlooked considerations in young people’s use of digital mental health interventions. Health policy and technology. doi.org/10.1016/j.hlpt.2022.100686.
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