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Mobile phone-based interventions for mental health: A systematic meta-review of 14 meta-analyses of

Abstract

Mobile phone-based interventions have been proposed as a means for reducing the burden of disease associated with mental illness. While numerous randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses have investigated this possibility, evidence remains unclear. We conducted a systematic meta-review of meta-analyses examining mobile phone-based interventions tested in randomized controlled trials. We synthesized results from 14 meta-analyses representing 145 randomized controlled trials and 47,940 participants. We identified 34 effect sizes representing unique pairings of participants, intervention, comparisons, and outcome (PICO) and graded the strength of the evidence as using umbrella review methodology. We failed to find convincing evidence of efficacy (i.e., n > 1000, p < 10−6, I2 < 50%, absence of publication bias); publication bias was rarely assessed for the representative effect sizes. Eight effect sizes provided highly suggestive evidence (i.e., n > 1000, p < 10−6), including smartphone interventions outperforming inactive controls on measures of psychological symptoms and quality of life (ds = 0.32 to 0.47) and text message-based interventions outperforming non-specific controls and active controls for smoking cessation (ds = 0.31 and 0.19, respectively). The magnitude of effects and strength of evidence tended to diminish as comparison conditions became more rigorous (i.e., inactive to active, non-specific to specific). Four effect sizes provided suggestive evidence, 14 effect sizes provided weak evidence, and eight effect sizes were non-significant. Despite substantial heterogeneity, no moderators were identified. Adverse effects were not reported. Taken together, results support the potential of mobile phone-based interventions and highlight key directions to guide providers, policy makers, clinical trialists, and meta-analysts working in this area.


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