Apps can help improve the symptoms of people suffering from varying levels of depression, according to an international team of researchers.

Academics from Harvard Medical School, the University of Manchester, Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), and the Black Dog Institute in Australia assessed the impact of digital therapies accessible on smartphones. They discovered, after looking at 22 separate ‘smartphone-delivered mental health interventions’, that apps reduced the symptoms of people affected by depression.

“The majority of people in developed countries own smartphones, including younger people who are increasingly affected by depression,” said NICM postdoctoral research fellow, Joseph Firth. “Combined with the rapid technological advances in this area, these devices may ultimately be capable of providing instantly accessible and highly effective treatments for depression, reducing the societal and economic burden of this condition worldwide.”

The researchers found those with mild to moderate levels of depression got the most out of the technology.

“The data shows us that smartphones can help people monitor, understand and manage their own mental health. Using apps as part of an ‘integrative medicine’ approach for depression has been demonstrated to be particularly useful for improving mood and tackling symptoms in these patients,” added Professor Sarris, NICM deputy director.