Evidence synthesis of digital interventions to mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public mental health: a rapid meta-review

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Feb 17. doi: 10.2196/23365. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Accumulating evidence suggests negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on public mental health. Digital interventions that have been developed and evaluated in recent years may be used to mitigate negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, evidence-based recommendations on the use of existing telemedicine and internet-based (eHealth) and app-based mobile Health (mHealth) interventions are lacking.

OBJECTIVE: The aim was to investigate the theoretical and empirical base, user perspective, safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of digital interventions in public mental health provision (i.e. mental health promotion, prevention and treatment of mental disorders) that may help to reduce the consequences of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: A rapid meta-review was conducted. MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and CENTRAL databases were searched on May 11, 2020. Study inclusion criteria were broad and considered systematic reviews and meta-analyses that investigated digital tools for health promotion, prevention, or treatment of mental health conditions and determinants likely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RESULTS: Overall, 815 peer-reviewed systematic reviews and meta-analyses were identified of which 83 met inclusion criteria. The present findings suggest that there is good evidence on the usability, safety, acceptance/satisfaction, and effectiveness of eHealth interventions while evidence on mHealth apps is promising, especially if social components (e.g. blended care) and strategies to promote adherence are incorporated. Although most digital interventions focus on the prevention or treatment of mental disorders, there is some evidence on mental health promotion. However, evidence on process quality, cost-effectiveness, and long-term effects is very limited.

CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence that digital interventions are particularly suited to mitigating psychosocial consequences at the population level. In times of physical distancing, quarantine, and restrictions on social contacts, decision-makers should develop digital strategies for continued mental health care and invest time and efforts in the development and implementation of mental health promotion and prevention programs.

PMID:33606657 | DOI:10.2196/23365