Can a COVID-19 Contact Tracing App Improve Psychological Distress?

Research Paper Title

Downloading a government-issued COVID-19 contact tracing app may improve psychological distress in the outbreak among employed adults: a prospective study.

Background

Downloading of a COVID-19 contact tracing app may be effective in reducing anxiety about COVID-19 and psychological distress of users.

Therefore, the objective of this 2.5-month prospective study aimed to investigate the association of downloading of a COVID-19 contact tracing app, the COVID-19 Contact Confirming Application (COCOA), released by the Japanese government with fear and worry about COVID-19 and psychological distress in a sample of employed adults of Japan.

Methods

A total of 996 full-time employed respondents to an online survey on 22 to 26 May 2020 (baseline) were invited to participate in a follow-up survey on 07 to 12 August 2020 (follow-up). High level of worrying about COVID-19 and high psychological distress were defined by scores on a single-item scale and the K6 scale, respectively, both at baseline and follow-up. The app was released between the two surveys on 17 June. Participants were asked at follow-up if they downloaded the app.

Results

A total of 902 (90.6%) out of 996 baseline participants responded to the follow-up survey. Among them, 184 (20.4%) reported that they downloaded the app. Downloading of the contact tracing app was significantly negatively associated with psychological distress, but not with fear and worry about COVID-19, at follow-up after controlling for baseline variables.

Conclusions

The study provided first evidence that a COVID-19 contact tracing app may be beneficial for the mental health of employed adults using a government-issued tracing app under the COVID-19 outbreak.

Reference

Kawakami, N., Sasaki, N., Kuroda, R., Tsuno, K. & Imamura, K. (2020) Downloading a government-issued COVID-19 contact tracing app may improve psychological distress in the outbreak among employed adults: a prospective study. JMIR Mental Health. doi: 10.2196/23699. Online ahead of print.

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