For many years, scientists have only investigated the drawbacks of cell phone texting, such as its effects on literacy levels and driver safety. In a new study, a team of experts was able to demonstrate that the practice can also have very positive effect.
Investigators at the University of California in Berkeley
(UCB) showed that receiving a text message is beneficial to those who feel disconnected from others, who are stressed out, isolated, or feel lonely.
One of the most interesting aspects of the study was that the team found the same effect even if the text recipients got an automated message. The study was led by UCB social welfare professor and clinical psychologist, Adrian Aguilera.
Over the years, the expert has treated many low-income Latinos, addressing depression and a host of other mental disorders. Many of his patients were enrolled in a program that sent them text messages asking them to track their moods, take their medication, and think about positive interactions.
Those who were a part of the program reported feeling more connected to others, and said that they felt better when they received the text messages. The SMS intervention project was set in motion in 2010.
“When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better. I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved,” one of Aguilera’s patients said. His cognitive behavior therapy group is based at the San Francisco General Hospital.
UCSF psychologist Ricardo Munoz was also a part of the group that developed the program. The team provided details about how the automated text message system works in a 2011 issue of the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.
“We are harnessing a technology that people use in their everyday lives to improve mental health in low-income, under-served communities,” Aguilera explains. His strategy may be very effective, according to statistics compiled in 2011.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey shows that African American and Latino mobile phone owners tend to send and receive more text messages than Whites. This makes the average mobile phone an excellent platform for medical intervention in these populations.
“The people I wanted to impact directly didn’t have as much access to computers and the Internet. So I thought about using mobile phones to send text messages to remind them to practice the skills covered in therapy sessions,” Aguilera concludes.