Cell Phones Used to Prevent Depression

Depressive Disorder effectively prevented with cell phone messaging program

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Cell phones are becoming ever more popular worldwide - even in developing countries and low-income households. New research suggests that this widespread technology could be used to reduce depression in adolescents.

Depressive disorder commonly begins between 15 and 18 years of age. The study aims to find an effective method at reducing depression during these early years. The research, conducted in New Zealand, used a preventative technique by delivering text and video messages to participants via their cell phones.

"Ask your therapist about preventative treatments for depression."

Robyn Whittaker, Ph.D., of the Clinical Research Trials Unit at the University of Auckland, says that “it is beneficial to be proactive and prevent depression – we know that adolescents with depression are more likely to suffer from poor academic achievement, social problems, substance abuse, and other psychiatric problems in adulthood. Therefore, preventing the onset of depression in adolescence may help to prevent a lifetime of other issues.”

The researchers worked with a trial base of students to develop 15 key messages that use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a preventative technique. The messages were then delivered in a variety of formats via mobile phones, including text messages, video clips of celebrities, and animated cartoons. The participants received 2 messages daily over the course of 9 weeks.

Participants were also directed to a companion website once a month which had more video messages, ringtones, and music available for download.

A total of 15 high schools across New Zealand participated in the study which included a variety of backgrounds and economic statues. 855 students participated in the study and over three quarters of the participants watched more than half of the messages.

Participants report that the program helped them to be more positive, solve problems, relax, and deal with negativity. 82% said that they found the program useful and 90% would recommend it to a friend.

Robert Pressman, Ph.D., Director of Research at the New England Center for Pediatric Research, notes that “more and more studies have been coming out regarding the use of mobile phones as an adjunctive tool in mental health treatment. This is a particularly appropriate area for research on adolescents, as there has been an increasing preference for the use of text communication within this population. The study is particularly noteworthy because the research team was able to acquire a substantial sample of adolescent boys and girls from several schools in New Zealand.”

The study was published in the Journal of Medial Internet Research and funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the Oakley Mental Health Research Foundation, the University of Auckland Faculty Research Development fund, and Vodafone New Zealand Ltd. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 26, 2012
Last Updated:
January 26, 2012