: An estimated 1 in 5 adolescents experience a mental health disorder each year; yet because of barriers to accessing and seeking care, most remain undiagnosed and untreated. Furthermore, the early emergence of psychopathology contributes to a lifelong course of challenges across a broad set of functional domains, so addressing this early in the life course is essential. With increasing digital connectivity, including in low- and middle-income countries, digital health technologies are considered promising for addressing mental health among adolescents and young people. In recent years, a growing number of digital health interventions, including more than 2 million web-based mental health apps, have been developed to address a range of mental health issues.
: This review aims to synthesize the current evidence on digital health interventions targeting adolescents and young people with mental health conditions, aged between 10-24 years, with a focus on effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and generalizability to low-resource settings (eg, low- and middle-income countries). Methods: We searched MEDLINE, PubMed, PsycINFO, and Cochrane databases between January 2010 and June 2020 for systematic reviews and meta-analyses on digital mental health interventions targeting adolescents and young people aged between 10-24 years. Two authors independently screened the studies, extracted data, and assessed the quality of the reviews.
: In this systematic overview, we included 18 systematic reviews and meta-analyses. We found evidence on the effectiveness of computerized cognitive behavioral therapy on anxiety and depression, whereas the effectiveness of other digital mental health interventions remains inconclusive. Interventions with an in-person element with a professional, peer, or parent were associated with greater effectiveness, adherence, and lower dropout than fully automatized or self-administered interventions. Despite the proposed utility of digital interventions for increasing accessibility of treatment across settings, no study has reported sample-specific metrics of social context (eg, socioeconomic background) or focused on low-resource settings.
: Although digital interventions for mental health can be effective for both supplementing and supplanting traditional mental health treatment, only a small proportion of existing digital platforms are evidence based. Furthermore, their cost-effectiveness and effectiveness, including in low- and middle-income countries, have been understudied. Widespread adoption and scale-up of digital mental health interventions, especially in settings with limited resources for health, will require more rigorous and consistent demonstrations of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness vis-a-vis the type of service provided, target population, and the current standard of care.
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