New research has highlighted the benefits of using a mobile phone app to manage stress and build the resilience of informal carers.
The StressLess app was developed by Deakin University researchers in partnership with service provider Australian Unity.
The app features a self-paced program on stress management, as well as prompts and individual feedback to help carers monitor their stress levels and mood over time.
The university’s School of Psychology led a five-week randomised controlled trial testing the effectiveness of the app among 110 carers aged between 26 and 64.
The results, published late last month, showed one in four carers who used the app experienced a decline in stress symptoms, compared with 15 per cent in the control group.
The app was found to be most beneficial for those experiencing high levels of stress, with almost half of this group showing an improvement in their symptoms.
Average resilience scores in the face of stress also improved more significantly among the intervention group compared to the control group, who were given a simple stress monitoring program.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Matthew Fuller-Tyszkiewicz said the results demonstrated the potential for the StressLess app to deliver more accessible and cost-effective stress management and coping strategies to carers.
He said the free app could be seen as an additional resource among a toolkit of strategies and supports for carers.
“It’s not going to be for everyone. We see it as one approach to improving stress symptoms for people who are carers, but not the only approach,” he told Community Care Review.
“We would also encourage our participants to think about the broad social networks as well as other resources that they could access.”
Associate Professor Fuller-Tyszkiewicz said the app helped carers draw on techniques such as breathing and relaxation exercises to help manage stressful situations and shorten periods of stress.
It also reminded carers of the importance of prioritising their own health, which has a flow-on effect to their ability to continue in their caring roles.
“The stress monitoring component of the app helped carers be more aware of those contexts of when they felt better and when they felt worse. This gave them a sense of when they were in most need of self care and when they were doing well and to perhaps savour those periods.”
Over 80 per cent of carers in the trial found the app intuitive or easy to learn to use, however a lack of time to engage with the app was identified as a barrier by some.
Considering these time challenges, Associate Professor Fuller-Tyszkiewicz said he was keen to test if shorter content would improve engagement with the app but retain the stress reduction benefits.
“We also want to consult more to find ways to package the app within services that carers may attend already.”
A further study is currently underway to assess the impact of the app on participants over a longer follow-up period.