Patient interest in mental health mobile app interventions: Demographic and symptom-level differences

UMMS Affiliation

Division of Health Informatics and Implementation Science, Population and Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Epidemiology | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Military and Veterans Studies | Psychiatry and Psychology | Telemedicine


BACKGROUND: Mobile app interventions for mental health conditions (MH apps) are an accessible and effective but underutilized treatment option. Learning which patients are most interested in MH apps is important for informing stakeholders where to position these treatments within the healthcare landscape. This study examined the relationship between patient characteristics and interest in MH apps.

METHODS: A demographically-balanced sample of 400 patients diagnosed with depression, anxiety and/or post-traumatic stress disorder were identified from VA corporate data warehouse records. These individuals were mailed an information packet explaining the study and the study survey for those who opted to participate. The survey contained questions on demographics, symptom severity and interest in MH apps. 149 participants returned completed surveys.

RESULTS: Level of interest in MH apps was consistent across race, sex and education level. Patients reporting no interest in MH apps had less severe symptoms and were older than patients reporting some or high interest.

LIMITATIONS: Participants were Veterans in one geographic region; our sample size was not large enough to evaluate more fine-grained demographic differences; replication would be required to better understand generalizability of findings.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest interest in MH apps may be more similar across demographic groups than previously thought. This stands in juxtaposition to interest in clinic-based services, for which men and minorities have traditionally reported less interest and show lower utilization. Findings also counter prevailing notions that MH apps will be best received by less symptomatic patients. Implications for integrating MH apps into care are discussed.


Anxiety, Depression, Mobile apps, Race, Sex, mHealth

DOI of Published Version



J Affect Disord. 2020 Feb 15;263:216-220. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.11.083. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31818779. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of affective disorders

PubMed ID


Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed