Today, people are looking for ways to relieve stress, cope with mood disorders, and other psychological issues more than ever before. As mental health awareness among populations rises, so does the demand for quality technological solutions that can positively impact emotional and behavioral aspects of life. While these solutions can differ significantly from one another — in terms of the psychological issues they address, techniques used, functionality, targeted audience, etc. — approach to any mental health app development requires extreme caution and precision.
This article aims at guiding you through the major nuances related to mental health app development and providing valuable info on how to make things right to succeed on the mHealth app market.
Understanding the Major Types of Mental Health Apps
The majority of existing mental health apps can be divided into mental health disorder apps and mental health self-improvement apps. To understand the difference between them, let’s look at the peculiarities of each type.
What Is a Mental Health Disorder App?
These apps are created for people dealing with certain mental health disorders: depression, GAD (General Anxiety Disorder), PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. Generally they are used as a supplement to traditional therapy and must have doctors on board (with the exception of some community apps that connect people sharing the same diagnosis).
What Is a Mental Self-Improvement App?
These are more ‘lightweight’ apps that anyone can use to improve their psychological state and well-being. Generally, these apps are based on various positive thinking methods, meditation, physical and mental relaxation techniques. Not always, yet sometimes these solutions offer psychological help, allowing users to take therapy sessions online, within the app.
There’s also room for ‘mixed’ mental health apps that combine approaches of both categories. However, the demand on the current market is for more issue-focused solutions. We’ll dive into this issue a bit later.
Recent Mental Health App Market Data
Businesses that consider investing in mental health app development always want to know answers to the following questions:
- Is it the right time to develop a mental health app?
- Would the solution be in demand?
- Would it pay for itself?
Addressing these common questions, we provide you with recent statistics on the current state of the mental health market.
According to the UnivDatos report, mobile stores today host over 300,000 mHealth apps, and it’s exactly the mental health segment that sees the largest growth. In the period from 2021 to 2027, the market segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20.5%, reaching $3.3 billion.
One of the major factors that contributes to the market growth is the COVID-19 pandemic. With up to 36% more people reporting having negative impacts on their mental health, it has contributed to the increased demand for mental health apps. For example, the above-mentioned report published by UnivDatos states that in April 2020, the top 20 mental health apps in the U.S. hit 4 million first-time downloads, showing a 29% increase from January 2020.
But the pandemic is not the only reason why people are searching for quality mental health support online. Inappropriate work-life balance, unhealthy eating habits, hectic schedules, relationship problems — all these common to the modern lifestyle issues, especially when it comes to developed and developing regions, harmfully impact people’s mental health. So if you’re wondering whether it’s the right time to enter the market with a mental health solution, the answer is yes. There’s a demand for effective mental health apps, so if you do everything right, you have a very high chance of success.
To give you a clearer picture of what’s in demand, let’s take a brief look at the most successful mental health apps on the current market.
This list of apps is provided by ADAA (Anxiety & Depression Association of America) and includes solutions that are most liked by users in terms of effectiveness and ease in use. Nevertheless, none currently have been properly researched, so there is still some space for doubts on whether they really improve the psychological state of their users.
So when it comes to answering questions whether a developed solution will be in demand and bring profits, the answer is — it depends. But for sure, there are ways to push it to success.
Scope for Mental Health App Improvement
According to the Digital Mental Health Revolution report published last year, there were over 10,000 mental health apps on the market in 2020. Meanwhile, the assessment of commercial apps that claim to address anxiety issues showed that only 52 out of thousands of accessed solutions were based on proven, effective psychological techniques. But things do not end there. According to the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), there are several problematic areas regarding mental health app development. Focusing on these concerns can not only improve the potential for your app's success but also greatly improve the user experience and mental health outcomes.
There is scientific evidence that mental health solutions work, and that they can work as well as trаditional methods. This evidence should be applied to app development.
Mental health is not a one size fits all diagnosis, so the solution shouldn’t be either. Consider existing solutions and your desired audience. Do existing solutions work for all people and for all mental health conditions?
Mental health apps deal with sensitive personal information and there must be a guarantee in its privacy.
There are no industry-wide standards to help consumers know if an app or other mobile technology is proven effective.
The question of who will or should regulate mental health technology and the data it generates needs to be answered.
There is some concern that if an app or program promises more than it delivers, consumers may turn away from other, more effective therapies.
So How to Ensure Your Mental Health App Success?
What makes a good mental health app and how can you ensure you are making something worthwhile? Let’s try to find the answer on the basis of NIMH grants, 404 of which were awarded to technology-enhanced mental health interventions.
Top Features of Mental Health Apps
So, if you are okay with the above-mentioned and feel serious about developing a mental health app, here are some ‘wanted’ by users features you can include in your app.
Calendars and checklists
To keep users motivated and provide them with tools that allow keeping their lives in order, include calendars and checklists in your app. Note that a reward system is also a good idea.
Speed analyzing tools included in a mental health app can make a difference to user experience allowing your users to receive insights about their sleep patterns, obtain healthy sleep habits, and improve the overall mental health state.
With such a feature users have an opportunity to mark triggering situations to discuss them with a therapist. It’s also possible that the system can analyze a set of marked triggers to produce a set of recommendations.
Reminders become extremely useful for people who have to take various medications at specific intervals, or specific times throughout the day.
Whether it is meditation, prayers, positive affirmations, etc — all these mindfulness techniques have a good impact on your users life, so adding them to your app is a nice way to help your users in obtaining their goals.
Writing down thoughts and feelings is a good thing for people wanting to sort out things in their lives, to understand what’s going on in their lives. But because it's not comfortable for everyone to do it on paper, digital journals can become a nice alternative.
With a data sharing feature, people can share their moods with their therapists to build better treatment plans or can share any other type of data stored in the app that can be important to their therapist.
Gamification in mental health apps contributes to more frequent and satisfying use of the app by patients, meanwhile allowing therapists to receive more useful data about mental state, mood, and severity of symptoms.
The Bottom Line
Mental health apps are not going to disappear. However, the key point to keep in mind is that professionals agree that mental health apps, whether those targeted at people with mental disorders or self-improvement solutions, need to be evidence-based and integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan.
We are really only at the beginning of this movement, and it’s the best time for providers to keep a close eye on how the trend progresses. When coming to the conclusion that the right time to enter the market has come, carefully plan all the details of the future project. For help, whether it’s ideas on a napkin or a well-thought-out plan, you’re always welcome to contact our specialists.
With vast experience in mHealth app development, we at Emerline know how to make things right. So if you’re looking for a trusted technology partner to make your mental health app idea come true, we will be happy to make our contribution to the success of your solution.