Using text-messages to promote positive youth mental health and wellbeing
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Health Sciences
Statistics around poor mental health in New Zealand youth illustrate a strong need for intervention. Indeed, positive mental health has been described as critical to positive youth development, with its promotion equipping youth with necessary resources, supports, and life skills. Health promotion and prevention activities have the potential to support the development of positive youth mental health. The use of technology to deliver health promotion interventions is gaining rapid support, however little is known about its use to deliver health promotion interventions that are grounded in positive psychology theories. This study explored the effectiveness of a gratitude-based text-message intervention on youth mental health and wellbeing, and the feasibility of this approach with youth. Participants were 136 young people recruited from around New Zealand. Upon consent, participants were randomly assigned to either a gratitude condition, or a reflective condition. In the gratitude condition, participants received a daily question sent over text-message asking them about specific things in life that they were thankful for. In the reflective condition, participants were asked daily questions over text-message about their everyday lives. Six variables were measured at pre-, post- and one month follow up intervention intervals. Surprisingly, results showed no significant differences between groups; however, main effects were found for the intervention itself. Immediately post-intervention, significant main effects were found for increases in self-esteem and wellbeing, and decreases in depression. At one-month follow-up, the main intervention effect for wellbeing remained significant. The study illustrated high engagement throughout the intervention in both conditions, suggesting that the approach is a suitable means for reaching youth in an enjoyable, engaging format.