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Understanding the impact of an AI-enabled conversational agent mobile app on users' mental health and wellbeing with a self-reported maternal event: a mixed method real-world data mHealth study.

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Inkster, Becky 
Kadaba, Madhura 
Subramanian, Vinod 


BACKGROUND: Maternal mental health care is variable and with limited accessibility. Artificial intelligence (AI) conversational agents (CAs) could potentially play an important role in supporting maternal mental health and wellbeing. Our study examined data from real-world users who self-reported a maternal event while engaging with a digital mental health and wellbeing AI-enabled CA app (Wysa) for emotional support. The study evaluated app effectiveness by comparing changes in self-reported depressive symptoms between a higher engaged group of users and a lower engaged group of users and derived qualitative insights into the behaviors exhibited among higher engaged maternal event users based on their conversations with the AI CA. METHODS: Real-world anonymised data from users who reported going through a maternal event during their conversation with the app was analyzed. For the first objective, users who completed two PHQ-9 self-reported assessments (n = 51) were grouped as either higher engaged users (n = 28) or lower engaged users (n = 23) based on their number of active session-days with the CA between two screenings. A non-parametric Mann-Whitney test (M-W) and non-parametric Common Language effect size was used to evaluate group differences in self-reported depressive symptoms. For the second objective, a Braun and Clarke thematic analysis was used to identify engagement behavior with the CA for the top quartile of higher engaged users (n = 10 of 51). Feedback on the app and demographic information was also explored. RESULTS: Results revealed a significant reduction in self-reported depressive symptoms among the higher engaged user group compared to lower engaged user group (M-W p = .004) with a high effect size (CL = 0.736). Furthermore, the top themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis revealed users expressed concerns, hopes, need for support, reframing their thoughts and expressing their victories and gratitude. CONCLUSION: These findings provide preliminary evidence of the effectiveness and engagement and comfort of using this AI-based emotionally intelligent mobile app to support mental health and wellbeing across a range of maternal events and experiences.


Peer reviewed: True


artificial intelligence, chatbot, conversational agent (CA), depression, maternal mental health and wellbeing, psychotherapy

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Front Glob Womens Health

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Frontiers Media SA