University of Illinois at Chicago
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Understanding Mobile Health and Youth Mental Health: Scoping Review

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-20, 17:17 authored by Xiaoxu Ding, Kelli Wuerth, Brodie Sakakibara, Julia Schmidt, Natalie PardeNatalie Parde, Liisa Holsti, Skye Barbic
BACKGROUND: A total of 75% of people with mental health disorders have an onset of illness between the ages of 12 and 24 years. Many in this age group report substantial obstacles to receiving quality youth-centered mental health care services. With the rapid development of technology and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, mobile health (mHealth) has presented new opportunities for youth mental health research, practice, and policy. OBJECTIVE: The research objectives were to (1) synthesize the current evidence supporting mHealth interventions for youths who experience mental health challenges and (2) identify current gaps in the mHealth field related to youth's access to mental health services and health outcomes. METHODS: Guided by the methods of Arksey and O'Malley, we conducted a scoping review of peer-reviewed studies that used mHealth tools to improve youth mental health (January 2016-February 2022). We searched MEDLINE, PubMed, PsycINFO, and Embase databases using the following key terms: (1) mHealth; (2) youth and young adults; and (3) mental health. The current gaps were analyzed using content analysis. RESULTS: The search produced 4270 records, of which 151 met inclusion criteria. Included articles highlight the comprehensive aspects of youth mHealth intervention resource allocation for targeted conditions, mHealth delivery methods, measurement tools, evaluation of mHealth intervention, and youth engagement. The median age for participants in all studies is 17 (IQR 14-21) years. Only 3 (2%) studies involved participants who reported their sex or gender outside of the binary option. Many studies (68/151, 45%) were published after the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Study types and designs varied, with 60 (40%) identified as randomized controlled trials. Notably, 143 out of 151 (95%) studies came from developed countries, suggesting an evidence shortfall on the feasibility of implementing mHealth services in lower-resourced settings. Additionally, the results highlight concerns related to inadequate resources devoted to self-harm and substance uses, weak study design, expert engagement, and the variety of outcome measures selected to capture impact or changes over time. There is also a lack of standardized regulations and guidelines for researching mHealth technologies for youths and the use of non-youth-centered approaches to implementing results. CONCLUSIONS: This study may be used to inform future work as well as the development of youth-centered mHealth tools that can be implemented and sustained over time for diverse types of youths. Implementation science research that prioritizes youths' engagement is needed to advance the current understanding of mHealth implementation. Moreover, core outcome sets may support a youth-centered measurement strategy to capture outcomes in a systematic way that prioritizes equity, diversity, inclusion, and robust measurement science. Finally, this study suggests that future practice and policy research are needed to ensure the risk of mHealth is minimized and that this innovative health care service is meeting the emerging needs of youths over time.



Ding, X., Wuerth, K., Sakakibara, B., Schmidt, J., Parde, N., Holsti, L.Barbic, S. (2023). Understanding Mobile Health and Youth Mental Health: Scoping Review. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 11, e44951-.


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