Short-term effect of a smartphone application on the mental health of university students: A pilot study using a user-centered design self-monitoring application for mental health

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Abstract

Background Despite the widespread recognition of the importance of mental health in young people, only a small proportion of young people with a mental disorder, including university students, receive mental health care. Objective We developed a smartphone application (Mental App) for the university students and examined the effects of the app on their mental health. Methods The app was designed according to a questionnaire survey conducted before this study. The Mental App was installed on the students’ smartphone and the psychological tests (the Link Stigma Scale, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and the 12-item General Health Questionnaire) were performed on the same day. After using the App for two weeks, the students completed a questionnaire survey and underwent the same psychological tests. We compared the results between the app user and non-user group. Results A total of 68 students participated, of which 57 students completed the study (app user group, n = 28; control group, n = 29). The mean number of days spent using the app was 5.66 ± 3.16 (mean ± SD). The mean total screen time of the app was 9:03 ± 06:41(min:sec). The mean number of total actions (screen taps or swipes) was 161.91 ± 107.34. There were no significant between-group differences in the ΔLink Stigma Scale score (-0.11 ± 4.28 vs. -0.59 ± 3.30, p = 0.496) or the ΔCenter for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale score (-4.39 ± 7.13 vs. -2.07 ± 8.78, p = 0.143). There was a significant between-group difference in the ΔGeneral Health Questionnaire score (-2.21± 2.23 vs. -0.17 ± 2.69, p = 0.007). Conclusions This non-randomized controlled pilot study indicates that the app we developed, may provide effective mental health care for university students, even in the short-term.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239592
JournalPloS one
Volume15
Issue number9 September
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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