Young people not accessing mental health apps due to 'lack of trust'

Online services such as mindfulness and meditation apps have been touted as useful tools for mental health management.

Young people find mental health apps untrustworthy, Edinburgh University study finds iStock

Young people may not be receiving the mental health support they need due to a lack of trust in smartphone apps, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh quizzed 248 young people aged between 17 and 25 to assess their attitudes to technology.

They found participants were “relatively neutral” towards the idea of digital health interventions.

If they perceived the technology as trustworthy and useful, researchers found, there was a small to moderate positive association with higher intentions to use a resource.

Such interventions are increasingly being presented as a solution as they are convenient, accessible and in many case, free to use.

Services available include mindfulness and meditation apps, screening apps and treatment apps offering online therapy.

A perceived ease of use and mental health need was not found to make a notable difference in the intention of young people to use a resource.

Overall, the study indicated that there were only moderate levels of acceptance for mental health technologies.

It is suggested by researchers that this could represent a barrier in the uptake of services among young people.

Dr Vilas Sawrikar, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Health in Social Science, said there should be a focus on developing trustworthy digital health interventions.

“Digital interventions only present a viable solution for young people if they are trusted and considered useful by those who need them,” said Sawrikar.

“These findings suggest there should be a focus on developing trustworthy digital health interventions with evidence about usefulness and effectiveness to improve uptake among young people.”

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