Augmented reality helps teens with asthma tackle anxiety, head on
For many teenagers the fear of an asthma attack can sometimes be as confronting as the actual condition. Research has found that they’re twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression. Now an augmented reality app is aiming to ease those fears.
In a push to curb increasing rates of poor mental health among our Aussie kids, new research from the University of South Australia is trialling the next-gen technology of augmented reality (interactive, computer-generated experiences overlaid across real-world environments), in the hopes that it could help teens take control of their mental health.
In Australia, one in seven children aged 4 to 17 years experience a mental health condition in any given year. Children with asthma are twice as likely to develop comorbid anxiety and/or depression, making them a high-risk group for poor mental health.
Lead researcher, UniSA’s Kelsey Sharrad, says the research hopes to show how augmented reality can enhance iHealth CBT resources to concurrently improve asthma and symptoms of anxiety among teenagers.
“CBT is a first-line psychological therapy that uses practical, task-based processes to teach kids how to recognise and cope with feelings of anxiety,” Sharrad says.
“Its success rate is more than eight times those of other therapies, but despite the known advantages, only 20 per cent of kids who could benefit from treatment are accessing it.
iHealth for Anxiety and Asthma
“Interactive technologies and personal devices such as iPhones, are a drawcard for most teenagers, so by developing novel iHealth solutions using augmented reality, we’re hoping to increase the appeal and engagement rates of CBT.
“In turn, we expect kids to interact more regularly with the technology, which will ultimately deliver positive impacts for their mental and physical health.”
Targeting 13 to 17-year-olds who have symptoms of anxiety and asthma, the study will compare the health outcomes of two groups: one using a paper-based CBT guidebook (the platform and launching pad for the augmented reality content), plus a self-help smartphone app; and the another using only the self-help smartphone app.
After four months, the research team hopes to show that teenagers using the augmented reality iHealth resources will have used the tools more frequently and for longer sessions, leading to reduced symptoms of anxiety, improved lung function and asthma control, and overall, a better quality of life.
A pilot study by the same research team previously delivered positive results to show how augmented reality iHealth resources consistently improved the accurate use of asthma inhalers among patients.
“One of the greatest benefits of augmented reality is its ability to put the user at the centre of the experience, which increases their motivation to engage and learn,” Sharrad says.
“CBT is already very person-centred and flexible, but by adding augmented reality, we’re increasing its appeal, personalisation and access for many more Australian teenagers in need.”