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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluation of an mHealth app : a pilot trial of "Destressify" on university student mental health Lee, Rebecca Anne


Background: One in five Canadians experience mental health issues with university students showing significantly higher rates of mental health problems than the general public. Current university support services are limited by factors such as available staff and finances, and social stigma has frequently been identified as an additional barrier that prevents students from accessing these resources. Mobile health (mHealth) apps are one form of alternative health support that is discrete and accessible to students, and while they are recognized as a promising alternative, there is limited research demonstrating their efficacy. Objective: To evaluate a mindfulness-based app’s (“DeStressify”) efficacy on stress, anxiety, depressive symptomology, sleep behaviour, work/class absenteeism, work/school productivity, and quality of life among university students. Methods: Full-time undergraduate students at a Canadian university with smartphones and internet access were recruited through in-class announcements and on-campus posters. Participants randomized into an experimental condition were given and instructed to use the Destressify app five days a week for four weeks. Control condition participants were wait-listed. All participants completed pre- and post-intervention online surveys to self-assess stress, anxiety, depressive symptomatology, sleep quality, and health-related quality of life. Results: 206 responses were collected at baseline with 163 participants completing the study (86 control, 77 experimental). Using Destressify was shown to reduce trait anxiety (P = .005) and improve general health (P = .001), energy (P = .005), and emotional wellbeing (P = .005) in university students, and more participants than expected by chance in the experimental condition believed their productivity improved between baseline and post-intervention measurements (P = iii .01). The app did not significantly improve stress, state anxiety, physical and social functioning, role limitations due to physical or emotional health problems, or pain (P > .05). Conclusions: Mindfulness-based apps may provide an effective alternative support for university student mental health. Universities and other institutions may benefit from promoting the use of Destressify or other mindfulness-based mHealth apps among students who are interested in methods of anxiety management or mindfulness-based self-driven health support. Future steps include examining Destressify and similar mHealth apps over a longer time period and in university staff and faculty.

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Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International