Understanding Attitudes Towards Mental Health and Wellness Apps Among College Students
Mental health and wellness applications are apps which are designed to increase overall well-being, mood, and other aspects of mental health. They can be used both to better one’s overall mental state, and also to receive interventions for different forms of mental health problems (i.e., depression, anxiety). Additionally, given their ease of accessibility, they have the potential to provide treatment on a widespread scale, while also potentially closing the “treatment gap.” However, mental health apps face a big challenge in the form of low user-engagement; individuals do not seem to be using these applications on a consistent and long-term basis. Given their recency, research on this phenomenon is very limited. In particular, the question of college students’ attitudes towards these apps has not yet been explored in the literature. Therefore, in this study we aimed to understand college students’ attitudes towards mental health applications. In particular, we sought to answer three overarching questions which, put together, present a composite and vivid description of overall attitudes towards these apps: what do college students find most helpful about these apps, what do they find most engaging, and finally what are the biggest criticisms had towards these apps among college students?
Using thematic analysis, we were able to identify recurring themes which arose throughout our data. When it comes to the most helpful features of these apps, college students report relief from stress and anxiety, and mindfulness exercises as the most popular responses. Similarly, college students report the aesthetic and functional design of these applications as the most engaging feature. Finally, the biggest criticism towards mental health apps reported among college students was the cost associated with using the app. By assessing college students' attitudes towards mental health apps, we hope app developers may improve upon the existing frameworks to increase overall user-engagement. Similarly, we hope that this study provides valuable information for research and development going forward.