Impact of a mobile phone and web program on symptom and functional outcomes for people with mild-to-moderate depression, anxiety and stress: a randomised controlled trial

BMC Psychiatry. 2013 Nov 18;13:312. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-312.


Background: Mobile phone-based psychological interventions enable real time self-monitoring and self-management, and large-scale dissemination. However, few studies have focussed on mild-to-moderate symptoms where public health need is greatest, and none have targeted work and social functioning. This study reports outcomes of a CONSORT-compliant randomised controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the efficacy of myCompass, a self-guided psychological treatment delivered via mobile phone and computer, designed to reduce mild-to-moderate depression, anxiety and stress, and improve work and social functioning.

Method: Community-based volunteers with mild-to-moderate depression, anxiety and/or stress (N = 720) were randomly assigned to the myCompass program, an attention control intervention, or to a waitlist condition for seven weeks. The interventions were fully automated, without any human input or guidance. Participants' symptoms and functioning were assessed at baseline, post-intervention and 3-month follow-up, using the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale and the Work and Social Adjustment Scale.

Results: Retention rates at post-intervention and follow-up for the study sample were 72.1% (n = 449) and 48.6% (n = 350) respectively. The myCompass group showed significantly greater improvement in symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress and in work and social functioning relative to both control conditions at the end of the 7-week intervention phase (between-group effect sizes ranged from d = .22 to d = .55 based on the observed means). Symptom scores remained at near normal levels at 3-month follow-up. Participants in the attention control condition showed gradual symptom improvement during the post-intervention phase and their scores did not differ from the myCompass group at 3-month follow-up.

Conclusions: The myCompass program is an effective public health program, facilitating rapid improvements in symptoms and in work and social functioning for individuals with mild-to-moderate mental health problems.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN 12610000625077.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Cell Phone
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Program Evaluation
  • Self Care
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Adjustment
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome