Research — 16 March 2015

The NHS is helping launch a new generation of apps to help people cope with stress, anxiety and depression – just by using their mobile phones. GPs will be able to prescribe the apps to patients put off by the prospect of talking to a counsellor. Health chiefs believe they will also help millions of people unwilling to go to a doctor in the first place. Tim Kelsey, the Government’s ‘digital health tsar’, said he wanted to produce ‘a sort of NHS-endorsed app store for mental health’, hosted on the NHS Choices website. But he admitted many would question whether screens could ever be as effective as face-to-face therapy, and stressed it was not a question of one or the other.  He said: ‘If people want and need one-to-one counselling, then that’s absolutely what they will get. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease, it said. GPs will be able to prescribe the apps for mobile phones to patients put off by the prospect of talking to a counsellor. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Suicide results in an estimated 1 million deaths every year, the WHO warns. In recent studies, depression has also been found to affect the way that people experience time.bigstock-Apple-iPhone-with-Social-Media-22890494

Research found that time seems to pass extremely slowly or even stand still when a person suffers from depression.  Dr Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel, of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, said: ‘Psychiatrists and psychologists in hospitals and private practices repeatedly report that depressed patients feel that time only creeps forward slowly or is passing in slow motion. ‘We found strong indicators that in depressed individuals the subjective feeling of the passage of time differs from the ability to assess the actual duration of external events.’ His team looked at the results from 16 individual studies in which 433 depressed people and 485 non-depressed people participated. In the studies, the participants were asked to estimate the duration of periods of time.  The results obtained for the depressed subjects were exactly the same as those for the healthy ones without any relevant statistical difference. ‘We found strong indicators that in depressed individuals the subjective feeling of the passage of time differs from the ability to assess the actual duration of external events,’ concluded Dr Oberfeld-Twistel. He added his team identified several aspects of the relation between depression and time perception that have not yet been investigated adequately. Little is actually known about the effects of antidepressants and psychotherapy, or how patients with bipolar disorders compared to non-bipolar depression assess the passing of time. Future studies need to clearly differentiate between the subjective perception of the passage of time, and a person’s ability to estimate the precisely defined lengths of time, he added.

This article first appeared The Daily Mail, 15 March 2015.

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