Smartphone application use patterns for mental health disorders: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis

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International Journal of Medical Informatics


Background: Mobile mental health applications play a significant role in mental health care to fill gaps in care for mental disorders. Despite the growth in mobile phone apps for mental health conditions, patients’ mental health smartphone application use, perceived usefulness, and future interest in using apps for mental disorders have not been systematically examined. Methods: The authors designed and conducted this systematic review and meta-analysis according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. Articles reporting mobile/smartphone applications used for mental disorders describing ownership, application use, perceived helpfulness, future interest to use, use patterns, and attitudes were included. PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, Scopus, and Google Scholar were searched. Published articles from 2014 up to October 2022 were included. The methodological quality was assessed using the Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal tool. The heterogeneity test, publication bias, funnel plots and Egger's test were applied. The outcome was calculated by metaprop command using a random-effects model. Results: Ten studies met the eligibility criteria. The pooled prevalence of smartphone ownership, application use for current mental health disorders, perceived usefulness, and future interest in using the app for their mental health problem was 88.63%, 23.29%, 72.80%, and 78.97%, respectively. Heterogeneity and publication bias were detected. Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that despite a considerable number of smartphone users, perceived usefulness, and future interest in using smartphone mental health applications among patients with mental disorders, only about one-fifth use an application for mental health disorders. The results show that there is a large potential to increase the use of apps for patients to support self-care in the growing era of digital mental health. Further research with consumers and mental health professionals is recommended to address barriers and improve mhealth app utilization. Registration: Prospero international prospective register of systematic reviews with ID: CRD42022359416.

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