Psychological well-being, Psychological well-being definition

What is Psychological Well-Being in Young People? The Role of Self-Help Digital Tools

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What is Psychological Well-Being?

For more than a decade, a body of literature has been evolving around the idea of well-being as being more than the absence of a mental health disorder (Dey et al., 2012; Patalay et al., 2017). The presence of psychological well-being is defined by the World Health Organization as the presence of both social and psychological health. Other sources consider such well-being to involve a complex interplay of physical, cognitive, social, economic, and psychological factors (Moore et al., 2018; Patalay & Fitzsimon, 2016) and is considered critical to a person’s health.

Self-help digital tools are growing in popularity as a treatment option of potential benefit to the psychological well-being and quality of life among youth. Self-help digital tools designed to improve psychological well-being often involve mental health gaming and are easy to access and inherently appealing to youth with fast Internet connections. Compared to in-person treatment, these tools are relatively low cost, can be delivered to large groups of individuals, and typically require little support from a mental health professional. They usually are partially or entirely self-administered and can be accessed via cell phone, the Internet, or a computer. 

Psychological Well-Being & Current Intervention Research

Babbage and colleagues (2022) conducted a study to systematically review research on self-administered, digitally delivered strategies for young people seeking to improve psychological well-being between the ages of 9-years-old to 25-years-old. The populations of youth had perceived or clinically diagnosed poor psychological well-being. The study used two definitions: social and psychological well-being.

Of the 1,153 studies examined, a total of 1.04% met the inclusion criteria (12/1153). Results indicated that self-help interventions that are self-administered improved symptoms of depression (6/12); other interventions addressed both anxiety and depressive symptoms (3/12), and other studies aimed at improving social functioning (2/12). 

These findings demonstrate the benefits of using self-help strategies, particularly for vulnerable groups of youth with poor psychological well-being. The researchers also note that self-help interventions led to enhanced functioning in other areas, such as self-esteem, emotional self-awareness, and problem-solving. The researchers also commented that most participants persisted with the self-help interventions over time. 

  • Also of note is that self-help digital interventions that reduced depressive symptoms in the depression sample were CBT-based fantasy games, such as SPARX and The Journey.
  • Youth with depression and anxiety benefited from mood monitoring digital interventions like Mobiletype, which was found to maintain greater emotional self-awareness at follow-up.

The researchers concluded that young people can benefit from digital interventions that target psychological well-being. Treatment providers are encouraged to cautiously start considering gaming and other digital interventions as adjunctive or replacement options to face-to-face treatment for youth who cannot or would not otherwise participate in in-person care. As with any therapeutic intervention, clinicians are encouraged to thoroughly review the documentation that accompanies the service and when needed, communicate directly with the developers of the tool to assure the appropriateness of recommendations and referrals.

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