Text Your Way to #Happiness?
Text messaging may be blamed for contributing to illiteracy but the study indicates there are clear mental health benefits.
Psychologists at the University of California , Berkeley, found people suffering from depression reported feeling more connected and cared for when they receive text messages.
One patient told study author Professor Adrian Aguilera: “When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better. I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved.”
Now researchers believe that everyone – not just people diagnosed with depression – experiences an up-lift in their mood when they receive or respond to a text message from a friend or family member.
The research began in 2010 when Prof Aguilera developed a customized “short message service (SMS)” programme in which his patients were sent text messages prompting them to think and reply about their moods and responses to positive and negative daily interactions.
The results have been published in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.
Prof Aguilera said: “We are harnessing a technology that people use in their everyday lives to improve mental health in low-income, under-served communities.”
Recent research in the US found that black and Latin American people were much more likely to send and receive text messages than whites.
Of the 2,277 adult mobile phone users surveyed, the most active senders and receivers of text messages were on low incomes and did not complete secondary school.
Prof Aguilera came up with the texting idea when he realised that many of his patients had difficulty applying the skills they learned in therapy to their daily lives, possibly because of the many stresses they routinely faced.
They could not afford laptops, electronic tablets or smart phones, but most had a basic cellular phone and a prepaid monthly plan.
“The people I wanted to impact directly didn’t have as much access to computers and the Internet,” Prof Aguilera said.
“So I thought about using mobile phones to send text messages to remind them to practice the skills covered in therapy sessions.”
The feedback from patients offers new insight into the human need for regular contact or check-ins for mental health professionals, even if only through automated technology,
Prof Aguilera said. While the text-messaging sessions are designed to last only a certain number of weeks, about 75 percent of the patients requested that they continue receiving the messages. When the program stopped for a week due to technical problems, some really noticed the difference. ”