A €6 million ($6.45 million) project, funded by Horizon Europe, aims to monitor the wellbeing of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 24 in the era of digitalisation.

The study, led by the European group with the German research institute FTK at the forefront, in partnership with scientists from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, will use mobile game apps to gather data on neurological sequences in young people, to understand how digital technologies, impact their health.

The project’s funding will be divided among Germany, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Poland, which will conduct similar pilot studies. Around €1 million ($1.07 million) has been allocated for research partners in the UK. The study will initially focus on adolescents in Scotland before expanding to the rest of the UK.

Researchers will track how participants play the game, which will provide insights into their mental health. The collected data will be analysed by artificial intelligence (AI) in a hub, revealing patterns and trends over time that can aid clinicians in diagnosing and managing fluctuations in patients’ mental wellbeing.

Active engagement in the game will be crucial for the success of the study. Therefore, the game will be developed through focus groups and a network of young volunteers from schools and universities. Dr. Theodore Lim from Heriot-Watt University said clinical and user input will be essential throughout the study to improve the game and identify the correct classifiers.

The accelerated changes in society resulting from the pandemic has led to an increased number of people experiencing mental health issues. These can be attributed, but not limited, to a constant cycle of news, global events, social media, and cyberbullying.

With mental health services in the UK already under strain, this study has the potential to alleviate the pressure on these services, along with other mobile health apps. According to a survey by GlobalData, only 21.4 percent of participants currently use health apps, with only 8.3 percent using them for depression.