Mental health issues among adolescents in America are a growing concern; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), using data from 2018 to 2019, estimates that 15.1% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 had major depressive episodes, and 36.7% had persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) estimated that in 2020, 17% of the U.S. adolescent population had at least one major depressive episode. The AI wellness companion Kai offers digital solutions to meet this need that are the focus of two studies on well-being in adolescents that have gotten the green light for publication by The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).

One study focused on adolescents who used Kai’s AI-powered acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) tool with their smartphones. The study included 10,387 participants between the ages of 14 and 18 and monitored their well-being over four months, tracking the adolescents’ engagement and interaction with Kai tools. Using the World Health Organization Well-Being Index (WHO-5) questionnaire, the study found that, on average, the “participants’ well-being significantly improved over time.” 

How does Kai’s ACT approach work? Through a series of structured questions, the personal wellness coach seeks to mitigate depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and other common psychological issues. A suite of digital tools aids with stress management, guiding the user through practices that include controlled breathing exercises with audio and video accompaniment, and guided journaling with chat-based conversation prompts. User interactions include automated messages based on input and chats with real people who seek to help users reach their goals.  

The second study focused on AI-driven intervention via texting apps, looking at 2,909 Kai users on popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram, Discord, and others. Gauging pre-use and post-use well-being using the WHO-5 questionnaire, the study concluded that “mobile based Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) interventions are effective means to improve individuals’ well-being.”

Kai’s Head of Research Dana Vertsverger says, “Finding ways to treat efficiently, prevent mental health problems, and increase well-being should be considered a priority for policymakers, healthcare providers, and entrepreneurs.” Kai CEO Alex Frenkel adds, “While the studies reinforce the potential of Kai as an enabler to [improve people’s emotional well-being], they also hint at the possibilities still left to discover.”