Objective: E-mental health technologies are increasing rapidly, both in number and in utilisation by consumers, health systems and researchers. This review aimed to: (i) examine the features and scientific evidence for e-mental health programs; (ii) describe the growth in these programs in the past decade, and track the extent and quality of scientific research over time; and (iii) examine Australian and international contribution to the field.
Method: Two types of e-mental health programs; 'web interventions' and mobile applications'; targeting depression, bipolar disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder and general stress were included. Data were collected from the Beacon website (www.beacon.anu.edu.au; last updated July 2011). Features of each program and their supporting scientific evidence were coded.
Results: In total, 62 web interventions and 11 mobile applications were identified. Half of these were developed in Australia. The majority of programs were aimed towards adults and were based upon cognitive behavioural therapy. Approximately equal numbers of programs were developed for all targeted disorders except bipolar disorder, which was underrepresented. Only 35.5% of programs, all of which were web-based, had been evaluated by at least one RCT. The number of publications over the last decade is increasing. The majority were from Australian sources. Non-Australian research was lower in diversity and quantity.
Conclusions: E-mental health research is increasing globally. Australia continues to be an international leader in this field. Depression, anxiety and panic disorder remain the disorders most targeted. Whilst the scientific evidence supporting e-mental health programs is growing, a substantial lack of high-quality empirical support was evident across the field, particularly for mobile applications and bipolar and social anxiety.