BACKGROUND: Mental health disorders in youth are a global issue that have important implications for the future quality of life and morbidity of affected individuals. In the context of public health initiatives, smartphone-based interventions have been suggested to hold the potential to be an effective strategy to reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders in youth; however, further evaluation is needed to confirm their effectiveness. This systematic review and meta-analysis documents and synthesizes existing research on smartphone-based interventions targeting internalizing disorders in youth populations.
OBJECTIVE: This study aims to synthesize existing research on smartphone-based interventions targeting internalizing disorders in youth populations.
METHODS: PubMed and SCOPUS were searched in 2019, and 4334 potentially relevant articles were found. A total of 12 studies were included in the final synthesis. We used the Hedges g meta-analysis approach and a random effects model for analysis.
RESULTS: The results of this review note that depression and anxiety are the most commonly targeted symptoms, and unlike other similar topics, most studies reviewed were linked to a proven treatment. The overall pooled effect from the meta-analysis showed small but significant effects (kappa=12; N=1370; Hedges g=0.20; 95% CI 0.02-0.38) for interventions in reducing the symptoms of internalizing disorders. In total, 4 subgroup analyses examining specific symptoms and intervention styles found varied small significant and nonsignificant effects.
CONCLUSIONS: Future research should focus on developing robust evaluative frameworks and examining interventions among more diverse populations and settings. More robust research is needed before smartphone-based interventions are scaled up and used at the population level to address youth internalizing disorders.
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