The world appears set to spend almost twice as much on mental health apps in 2022 than it did in 2019.
A new report from the professional services giant Deloitte — titled Technology, Media & Telecommunications 2022 Predictions — says that a “conservative” annual growth rate for global spending on mental health apps is 20%, for an estimated total of $491 million, up 83% from 2019 levels.
Deloitte calls the 20% projection “conservative” considering the even higher 32% growth rate seen in the first 10 months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.
This spending explosion is remarkable for many reasons, the report states — not the least of which is that these apps are free or low cost and they integrate well into the increasingly digital-centric aspect of daily life.
But at an even wider level, increased spending on digital mental health apps is an index of sorts for the incredible demand for behavioral health services in the U.S. This was magnified by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which accelerated the prevalence of mental health issues. One study finds that feelings of anxiety or depression increased by nearly four times in December 2020 compared to the first half of 2019.
The growth in this space also represents a cultural shift about seeking help for those who otherwise might not have sought it via traditional methods.
“In China, for instance, where human resources for professional mental health treatment are often low and stigma around mental health conditions is high, consumer spending on wellness apps grew by more than 60% in the first 30 days of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 7–April 5, 2020) versus the 30 days prior (February 6–March 6, 2020),” the report states. “We believe that this dynamic will drive strong mental health app growth in China and many other Asian countries.
Regulation of mental health or medical apps is sparse, the report noted, a “cause for growing concern internationally.”
The report casts a stark light on how innovative tech-focused mental health providers fared in the pandemic. COVID-19 brought disruption to the industry and saddled it with even heavier workforce burdens than ever before.
In contrast, mental health apps and the companies that create and manage them appeared to thrive, or at least avoid the same level of instability.
“[Mental health apps] are also more resistant to disruption than traditional therapies, though they are not a replacement for professional mental health treatment,” the report states.
The report finds that as many as 20,000 mental health apps may exist today with two of the most popular being Calm and Headspace. These apps may become even more ubiquitous in digital life. The report points to collaborations with social media companies like Snapchat working with Headspace Health and dating app Bumble working with Calm as ways to bring mental health apps to wider audiences.