Does a mobile phone depression-screening app motivate mobile phone users with high depressive symptoms to seek a health care professional's help?

Nasser F Bin Dhim*, Eman M. Alanazi, Hisham Aljadhey, Mada H. Basyouni, Stefan R. Kowalski, Lisa G. Pont, Ahmed M. Shaman, Lyndal Trevena, Tariq M. Alhawassi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)
177 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The objective of disease screening is to encourage high-risk subjects to seek health care diagnosis and treatment. Mobile phone apps can effectively screen mental health conditions, including depression. However, it is not known how effective such screening methods are in motivating users to discuss the obtained results of such apps with health care professionals. Does a mobile phone depression-screening app motivate users with high depressive symptoms to seek health care professional advice? This study aimed to address this question. Method: This was a single-cohort, prospective, observational study of a free mobile phone depression app developed in English and released on Apple's App Store. Apple App Store users (aged 18 or above) in 5 countries, that is, Australia, Canada, New Zealand (NZ), the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US), were recruited directly via the app's download page. The participants then completed the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), and their depression screening score was displayed to them. If their score was 11 or above and they had never been diagnosed with depression before, they were advised to take their results to their health care professional. They were to follow up after 1 month. Results: A group of 2538 participants from the 5 countries completed PHQ-9 depression screening with the app. Of them, 322 participants were found to have high depressive symptoms and had never been diagnosed with depression, and received advice to discuss their results with health care professionals. About 74% of those completed the follow-up; approximately 38% of these self-reported consulting their health care professionals about their depression score. Only positive attitude toward depression as a real disease was associated with increased follow-up response rate (odds ratio (OR) 3.2, CI 1.38-8.29). Conclusions: A mobile phone depression-screening app motivated some users to seek a depression diagnosis. However, further study should investigate how other app users use the screening results provided by such apps.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere156
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. 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.


  • Depression
  • Mental health
  • Mobile phone
  • Patients' screening
  • Public health informatics


Dive into the research topics of 'Does a mobile phone depression-screening app motivate mobile phone users with high depressive symptoms to seek a health care professional's help?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this