The efficacy of mindfulness meditation apps in enhancing users' well-being and mental health related outcomes: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Author: Éva Gál1, Simona Ștefan2, Ioana A Cristea3
1 Evidence Based Psychological Assessment and Interventions Doctoral School, Babeș- Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Electronic address:
2 Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Babeș- Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; The International Institute for the Advanced Studies of Psychotherapy and Applied Mental Health, Babeș- Bolyai University, Cluj- Napoca, Romania.
3 Department of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
Conference/Journal: J Affect Disord
Date published: 2020 Oct 7
Other: Volume ID: 279 , Pages: 131-142 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.09.134. , Word Count: 196

Mindfulness applications are popular tools for improving well-being, but their effectiveness is unclear. We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that employed a mindfulness meditation app as the main intervention to improve users' well-being and mental-health related outcomes.

A systematic search was conducted in PsycINFO, PubMed, Web of Science, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global, the Cochrane Library, Open Grey and ResearchGate through June, 2020. Effects were calculated as standardized mean difference (Hedges' g) between app-delivered mindfulness interventions and control conditions at post-test and pooled with a random-effects model.

From 2637 records, we selected 34 trials (N = 7566). Significant effect sizes were found at post-test for perceived stress (n = 15; g = 0.46, 95% CI [0.24, .68], I2= 68%), anxiety (n = 15; g = 0.28, 95% CI [0.16, .40], I2= 35%), depression (n = 15; g = 0.33, 95% CI [0.24, .43], I2= 0%), and psychological well-being (n = 5; g = 0.29, 95% CI [0.14, .45], I2= 0%). No significant effects were found for distress at post-test (n = 6; g = 0.10, 95% CI [-0.02, .22], I2= 11%) and general well-being (n = 5; g = 0.14, 95% CI [-0.02, 0.29], I2 = 14%).

Conclusion and limitations:
Mindfulness apps seem promising in improving well-being and mental-health, though results should be interpreted carefully due to the small number of included studies, overall uncertain risk of bias and heterogeneity.

Keywords: app; mHealth; mental-health; mindfulness; randomized trial; well-being.

PMID: 33049431 DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.09.134