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A new study suggests that an mHealth app for mental health counseling is as effective as in-person therapy.
Employees who engage in mental health counseling through an mHealth app may be less stressed. Image has been altered. Licensed from hvostik16 - Fotolia.
Videoconferencing via a mobile health (mHealth) app led to a decrease in stress and enhanced resiliency in the workplace, according to a new study.
Researchers from Seoul National University Bundang Hospital in South Korea found that app-based mental health counseling was just as effective at decreasing employee stress levels as in-person therapy, according to the study, published last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Researchers found that the self-care group had the highest perceived stress and the least amount of resiliency in the workplace following the study.
Stress is a significant problem for both employees and employers alike, as study author Jeong-Hyun Kim, M.D., Ph.D., noted that the statistics related to stress in the workplace highlight the severity of the issue. “Data from the American institute of Stress stated that job stress in the United States accounts for over $300 billion annually as a result of increased absenteeism, diminished productivity, medical, legal and insurance expenses and worker compensation.”
Additionally, according to earlier research, “Stress has also been reported to be a major factor in up to 80 percent of all work-related injuries and 40 percent of workplace turnovers.” Stress is also linked to insomnia, anxiety, depression and heart disease.
Kim created the study because he found that most employees have trouble finding time to properly address their stress levels and mental health because it is difficult to find time to visit a clinic during office hours.
To attempt to solve the problem, researchers recruited 98 individuals, 17 of whom did not meet the inclusion criteria, between the ages of 19 and 65 who scored 14 or higher on the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) at baseline, owned an Android smartphone and were employed full time while the intervention was being conducted. The 81 qualified participants were then randomly separated into three control groups — mobile videoconferencing, in-person and self-care — based on the mental healthcare they were receiving and the results of a questionnaire that evaluated the participants’ work-related stress. Seventy-two of the 81 qualified participants completed the study, which lasted four weeks.
The mHealth videoconferencing group used the “Hello Mindcare” Android app, which gave participants the ability to schedule sessions and participate in 50-minute videoconference sessions with psychologists who had a master’s degree in the field.
The in-person group received mental health counseling via one-on-one therapy sessions with a psychologist who had a master’s degree. The participants met with a counselor for 50 minutes, once a week, for four weeks.
The participants in the third group, known as the “self-care” group, received hard copies of educational material with methods to self-regulate stress. Those participants were instructed to read one chapter each week for four weeks. These educational materials were also provided to the participants in the aforementioned groups.
The team concluded that starting mobile videoconferencing with licensed psychologists on the job site may be worthwhile in both a financial and time-management sense. If employers hire outside consultants to videoconference with their employees for a few hours a week, work-related stress would likely decrease, and the company could save money on stress-related expenses.
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