Wearable tech and digital software tools are well suited for objective measures. Measuring steps, electronic heart signatures, respiration, brainwaves, and, more recently, prescription drug compliance via ingestible sensors in medication are all binary reporting events. Something did or didn’t happen. In some cases, the reports monitor multiple occurrences of a variety of yes-or-no events and run the event occurrence (or absence) through algorithms, but those measures and what you make of them are still dependent on a big batch of 0s and 1s. But what about subjective measures? Does health tech have relevance when the only quantification is “more” or “less,” or perhaps “better” or “worse”? Are mental health digital tech applications limited by their analog nature?

We’ve looked at mental health telemedicine, the efficacy of AI-powered chatbots, and apps designed to measure cognition, memory, and mental health.  Researchers at Brigham Young University recently published a study in JMIR mHealth and uHealth in which they surveyed approximately 600 people who used diet, physical activity, and mental health apps in the previous six months. They wanted to know if the mental health apps could influence behavior and if subjects trusted the mental health apps as much a as diet and activity apps. The result of their inquiry was that more than 90% users reported increased desire and motivation with the diet and exercise apps. The researchers also found 90% of the survey takers reported increased motivation, confidence, intentions, and attitude on maintaining mental and emotional health.

Mental health apps are relatively inexpensive and readily accessible, especially when compared with traditional office visits. The good news from the BYU study is that mental health apps can contribute to positive behavior change.