“Online Interventions” in the Pursuit of Mental Health

Lifestyle, Technology
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Research recently published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Wellbeing demonstrates that the use of Happify, a publicly available app and website offering scalable, evidence-based mental health and well-being interventions, results in significant improvements in depression, anxiety and resilience. After the eight-week trial period, study participants who engaged in Happify activities at the recommended level of at least two to three times a week experienced a 25 percent improvement in symptoms of both depression and anxiety and a 21 percent improvement in resilience.

The study was conducted by researchers from Happify, Vassar CollegeHiram College and Case Western Reserve University.

This is one of the few studies to evaluate the impact that real-world digital interventions have on mental health. Rather than the typical approach that employs created conditions designed specifically for a laboratory experiment, the research utilized the widely-used platform, Happify, and a study population of newly registered Happify users. Additionally, to represent the real-world experience more accurately, the control group was provided with psychoeducational materials similar to information found when surfing the web for mental health and well-being topics. Using an active control group rather than one that was given no intervention at all – as is often done in these types of trials – helped account for a possible placebo effect and provided a more rigorous test of the platform’s impact.

When compared to participants in the control group who used the recommended level of psychoeducational materials, regular Happify users showed a 68 percent greater improvement in depressive symptoms, a 92 percent greater improvement in symptoms of anxiety and a 64 percent greater improvement in resilience.

“One of the really powerful findings of this study is confirmation that resilience is a trainable skill and that Happify interventions can help build resilience over time,” said Michele Tugade, Ph.D., co-researcher on the study, Professor of Psychological Science at Vassar College and a leading expert in resilience. “By providing the tools that allow people to tap into their own strengths, these interventions help them better manage and overcome the personal and professional stressors in their lives, which is so important to mental health and well-being.”

A separate follow-up analysis on the same study population showed that participants with severe symptoms of depression gained the most from regular use of Happify, showing a 28 percent improvement in both depression and anxiety and an even higher, 30 percent improvement in resilience.

“Mental health is a global epidemic, and these results show the tremendous impact that simple, scientifically-verified online activities can have on common mental health conditions that are responsible for increasing healthcare costs both for individuals and employers; reducing workplace productivity; and causing so much personal pain,” said Acacia Parks, Ph.D., lead study researcher and Chief Scientist at Happify. “We saw the severity of the condition decrease over the course of the study for those regularly engaged in Happify activities, which validates the role Happify can play in helping those with anxiety and depression.”

Additional Study Details
The study sample included 1,051 participants (472 in the Happify user group and 579 in the psychoeducation control group) who were all newly registered on Happify. The baseline and eight-week post-assessment included the PHQ-9 to measure depressive symptoms and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD-7) to measure anxiety symptoms. For the resilience measure, Dr. Tugade oversaw  the creation of a composite assessment reflecting the three characteristics that demonstrate resilience in the literature: an optimistic outlook, successful adaptations to stress and the ability to develop positive emotions in the midst of stress. The resilience assessment included the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) to measure stress, the scientifically-validated Happify Scale (HS-E) to measure positive emotionality; and Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R) to measure optimism.

About Happify Health 
Happify Health, a leader in mental health and wellness technology, breaks down barriers to achieving better emotional health by creating an engaging, stigma-free environment that allows individuals to access digital interventions with any device – at the place and time when it matters most. Its clinical, evidence-based activities and games are designed to preserve the effectiveness of research-tested activities, and its digital, gamification approach helps users create positive change in their lives by developing skills to reduce stress and build resilience. Happify Health uses scientific research from positive psychology, CBT and mindfulness, and combines it with leading-edge technology to impact everyday lives. For more information go to www.happifyhealth.com

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