NeuroFlow Debunks the Myth of Mental Health App Usage Among Older Populations

A recent Axios survey found that roughly half of Americans are “willing to use select health-related technologies” including meditation apps, fitness trackers, and mental health apps. And industry experts only expect this trend to accelerate. A 2022 HIMSS “Future of Healthcare” study expects “digital health app patient usage to grow by at least 33% in the next three to five years.” And it’s easy to see why.

Smartphones give people powerful, easy-to-use tools to participate in nearly every aspect of their care outside of traditional healthcare settings and in-person visits. The best tools also provide valuable data to help clinicians and behavioral healthcare specialists proactively identify serious risk factors sooner than just regular, occasional in-person visits, ultimately leading to better outcomes and lower cost across even the largest healthcare networks.

The future of healthcare is clearly digital. But even the best health technologies only work if people actually use them. And when it comes to various populations, a belief still exists that the shift to digital health might leave some older individuals behind; so we wanted to dig into the data and understand how often people of different age groups use NeuroFlow. What we found upends conventional thinking regarding older generations and technology adoption.

How Old is the Average NeuroFlow User?

While a common concern is that older people simply won’t use health apps, the average age of NeuroFlow users is 51 years old. This number might seem high, but it isn’t surprising considering that “83% of Americans between ages 50 and 64 own a smartphone,” according to the most recent Pew Research survey. And it’s estimated that 20% of people 55 and older experience a mental health concern, such as anxiety or depression. 

Caring for the physical and mental well-being of aging generations is already a significant challenge, but experts anticipate the problem will only continue to grow in the coming years. “People aged 65 and older already account for roughly one-third (35%) of total U.S. health care spending,” according to Forbes. “As the boomer population grows [older], so will these costs.”

To address this care crisis, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced sweeping changes to how Medicare and Medicaid will prioritize behavioral health care with a new strategy that includes removing restrictions so behavioral health specialists can treat more people, while also “integrating behavioral health services into a community model.”

“We have made behavioral health a priority,” said CMS deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare Dr. Meena Seshamani. “It really crosses all of our strategic pillars: advancing equity; expanding access to coverage and care; driving innovation to reward high-quality, whole-person care; and making our program affordable and sustainable for generations to come.”

One of the best ways to mitigate the looming care gap—for any age group—is by delivering and adopting evidence-based mental health resources and measurement-based care digitally. This effectively bridges the behavioral health divide for millions of Americans between in-person visits.

Read on for a look at how often adults of all ages use NeuroFlow as part of their overall care, and what these engagement rates signify for the future of mobile health tools for an aging population.

How Do Different Age Groups Use NeuroFlow? 

To answer this question, we looked at the number of activities people completed each month, segmented by age. And the results show two things—monthly NeuroFlow usage remains steady across all age groups, and engagement and retention rates significantly outperform industry averages for other mental health apps, which hovers around just 10% active daily users, and quickly fades to single digits within as little as 30-days of downloading most apps.

People using NeuroFlow on the other hand, are regularly completing 4-5 activities per week. And while there is a slight drop off in average usage, age it seems, isn’t a significant factor for engagement rates, as the total number of activities completed each month barely tapers off across seven decades of users.

App Engagement by Age

The chart shows average monthly activities over a 12-month period.

We also found that over 50% of registered individuals engaged with NeuroFlow’s behavioral health content during their second month on the platform (and beyond). That’s nearly ten times the industry average retention rate for other behavioral health apps. What’s more, long term engagement with NeuroFlow remains among the highest in the industry, with most mental health apps below 6% retention after just 30 days.

NeuroFlow Engagement Metrics

NeuroFlow’s retention rate is particularly impressive when you compare it to the recent drop in engagement for some of the most popular meditation and wellness apps—user engagement on Calm and Headspace are down as much as 60% from their 2020 highs.

The Future of Mobile Health

Understanding how people of all ages use mobile health tools is key to building a more robust, effective, and holistic healthcare system that can scale and specialize to meet the growing needs of an aging American population.

And as more patients, healthcare providers, and plans increasingly rely on digital tools and the valuable real-time data, the future of healthcare will continue to evolve, improve, and become more mobile-friendly as healthcare apps become just another part of the patient journey.  

This is the third installment of a new data-driven blog series examining the latest trends in behavioral health. Other posts explore patient outcomes with the CoCM and the most popular behavioral health content in the NeuroFlow app. Take a look at the entire series for a deeper dive into the latest behavioral health trends.

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