A review of mobile chatbot apps for anxiety and depression and their self-care features

Arfan Ahmed, Nashva Ali, Sarah Aziz, Alaa A. Abd-Alrazaq, Asmaa Hassan, Mohamed Khalifa, Bushra Elhusein, Maram Ahmed, Mohamed Ali Siddig Ahmed, Mowafa Househ

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background: Anxiety and depression rates are at an all-time high. Smartphone-based mental health chatbots can aid psychiatrists replacing some of the costly human based interaction providing a unique opportunity to expand the availability and quality of mental health intervention whilst providing an alternative approach to fill the much-needed self-care gap.

Objective: Assess the quality and characteristics of chatbots for anxiety and depression available on Android and iOS systems.

Methods: A search was performed in the App Store and Google Play Store following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) protocol to identify existing chatbot apps for anxiety and depression. Eligibility was assessed by two individuals based on predefined eligibility criteria. Meta-data of the included chatbots and their characteristics were extracted from their description and post-installation by two reviewers. Information on quality was assessed by following the mHONcode principles.

Results: Only a handful (n=11) of chatbots were included from an initial search of 1000 that provide a substitute for human-human based interaction and clearly had a therapeutic human substitute goal in mind. The majority of reviewed apps had a high number of downloads indicating their popularity. The apps were also of a general high quality based on our assessment according to the mHONcode principles.

Conclusion: The general popularity of apps reviewed, and results of our quality assessment indicate chatbots have a promising future within the realm of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression chatbot apps have the potential to increase the capacity of mental health self-care providing much needed low-cost assistance to professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100012
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalComputer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine Update
Volume1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • chatbots
  • pandemics
  • COVID-19

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