Apps for bipolar falling short of young people's needs
Published: 11 July, 2017
Existing apps for bipolar only address a narrow range of functions for young people managing the condition, a new study finds.
New research by the Black Dog Institute has revealed a gap in the marketplace for evidence-based smartphone apps that support young people with bipolar disorder to manage their condition.
The study, published in the latest European Psychiatry, surveyed 89 young adults aged 18-30 with bipolar disorder to explore their engagement with app technologies.
In one of the first published studies into the app use of young people with bipolar disorder, the research focused on four key areas: participants’ use of technology such as smartphones for engaging in online activities; their current use of apps for managing the disorder; the self-management strategies they wanted captured by app technologies; and the specific elements they identified as important when selecting an app to use.
“These results show that young adults are interested in apps for a broad range of self-management strategies, but what they needed from the apps really extended beyond what’s currently available to them through the App Store,” said lead author Jennifer Nicholas, a PhD candidate at the Black Dog Institute.
“The vast majority of survey participants used smartphones on a daily basis, making apps a useful platform for self-management strategies for people with bipolar disorder.”
While 80 percent of participants were open to engaging with a wide variety of apps that supported self-management of their condition, only 40 percent actually used them.
The research team found that existing apps supported only a narrow range of strategies that were clinically recommended for the self-management of the condition. The most common of these were symptom monitoring and disorder information.
However, other important routine and lifestyle factors, such as sleep management, a balanced diet, exercise, stay-well plans, social support and meditation/relaxation, were not covered by existing apps for bipolar disorder, despite respondents identifying them as important for bipolar self-management.
“Apps have great potential to deliver resources that support people living with bipolar disorder with useful strategies right at their fingertips, but they’re not currently meeting that potential,” Nicholas said.
Apps designed for the self-management of mental health conditions remain unregulated; existing bipolar-disorder-specific apps generally perform poorly when measured against evidence-based guidelines and best practice resources.
“Our research indicates the need to deliver evidence-based app resources that support a broader range of functions, to help benefit a wider user base,” said Nicholas.
“Future apps should supplement existing clinical advice, rather than deliver standalone interventions.
“App developers should also be regularly consulting with the user population – let’s go to the users and find out what’s missing, to make sure we’re addressing their needs.”
The results follow a recent study by Jennifer Nicholas showing people who use apps for bipolar management find them overwhelmingly positive to use as a supplement to clinical care._______________________________________
Media contact: Emily Cook, 0455 100 277 or send an email
The full research article can be accessed at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924933817328870.