Understanding users’ perspectives on mobile apps for anxiety management

Andreas Balaskas, SM Schueller, Anna Cox, G Doherty
in Frontiers in Digital Health, Journal article

Abstract

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health problem. The potential of apps to improve mental health has led to an increase in the number of anxiety apps available. Even though anxiety apps hold the potential to enhance mental health care for individuals, there is relatively little knowledge concerning users' perspectives. This mixed-methods study aims to understand the nature of user burden and engagement with mental health apps (MHapps) targeting anxiety management, in order to identify ways to improve the design of these apps. Users' perspectives on these apps were gathered by analyzing 600 reviews from 5 apps on the app stores (Study 1), and conducting 15 interviews with app users (Study 2). The results shed light on several barriers to adoption and sustained use. Users appreciate apps that offer content variation, customizability, and good interface design, and often requested an enhanced, personalized experience to improve engagement. We propose addressing the specific app quality issues identified through human-centered design, more personalized content delivery, and by improving features for social and therapeutic support.