Mobile Mental Health Apps in China: Systematic App Store Search

Yin, H., Wardenaar, K. J., Wang, Y., Wang, N., Chen, W., Zhang, Y., Xu, G. & Schoevers, R. A., 27-Jul-2020, In : Journal of medical internet research. 22, 7, 13 p., e14915.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

BACKGROUND: Smartphones have become ubiquitous in China, offering a promising way to deliver mental health interventions; however, little is known about the current use and characteristics of smartphone apps for mental health.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to gain insight into mobile mental health apps available in China as of December 2018.

METHODS: A systematic search was conducted to identify and evaluate the most downloaded apps from iOS and Android platforms. Apps were categorized according to their main purpose and downloaded to evaluate their content. Each app's affiliation, cost, target users, information security, and evidence-based nature were evaluated.

RESULTS: Of the 172 unique apps that were identified, there were 37 apps (21.5%) for psychological counseling, 50 apps (29.1%) for assessment, 12 apps (7.0%) to relieve stress, 24 apps (14.0%) for psychoeducation, and 49 (28.4%) multipurpose apps (ie, a combination of counseling and assessment). Most apps were developed for adults in the general population (166/172, 96.5%), rather than for psychiatric patients. App-based counseling was mostly provided by psychologists, and of the assessed apps, only 40% (70/172) used evidence-based scales to assess mental health problems such as anxiety or depressed mood. Guided meditation was used as the main technique in stress-relieving apps.

CONCLUSIONS: Many apps contained useful and evidence-based elements, such as good quality information, validated measurements, and useful meditation methods; however, for mobile apps to contribute significantly to mental health care in China, considerable challenges remain, including the need for more patient-focused apps that can actually take on the role of a health care provider. In addition, efficacy studies are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14915
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of medical internet research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 27-Jul-2020

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