“Replication Crisis” and Tech in Mental Health Research

After continuing to data dig in Google Scholar for research articles referencing “mental health”, there were some interesting observations found. Technology-related publications just increased by 12.7% in the aggregate, but there were increases in Wearables, by ~450%, as well as Apps, by ~650% since 2013. Though, that didn’t paint the entire picture.

Taking a bird’s eye view, there was a significant downtrend in research within Mental Health starting at the beginning of the “Replication Crisis” in 2011-2013.

Trends in Mental Health Publications from 1985 to 2018

Since that year, where the number of research articles reached a staggering 477,000+, research dropped by ~75% within a 5 year block between 2013 to 2018. That’s amazing and paints a dire picture for the field on the surface of it. Though, looking at VC Funding in the space, trend lines look amazing! So, what’s going on here?

Well, tech is actually picking up adoption in total research done within Mental Health with 32.8% of all publications in 2018 even though total research has lowered significantly. A greater than 2x increase since 2013.

From my experience in the mental health system, the “Replication Crisis” has resulted in a few things:

  1. Researchers were/are scrambling for any way to get funding.
  2. Researchers need to focus in the latest technology trends.
  3. Mental Health care is going through many drastic, shifting changes.

This is not a health environment for any field, especially healthcare. You need consistency to provide the right service to patients in order for them to get healthy. I’ve seen so many parts of mental health just focused on surviving day-to-day and reducing the number of really-bad-situations. I’m naive when it comes to healthcare on any level, but understand at least some things from my personal experience and what I see from others. The system just doesn’t work for anyone right now, not just patients…but everyone, including doctors and researchers, who are stuck in a quicksand situation of care.

With that said, the latest trend lines in psychological research towards a leaner and more technology focus shows promise! Talented researchers will get far more data into their hands and derive actionable, repeatable outcomes that have largely been well-developed in mobile and web technology over the years. Also, if VC funding continues on its growth path, then there will no doubt be a lot of monetary opportunity available to researchers going forward to go on a growth curve themselves alongside technology companies. I’m hopeful, but I really hate the current situation.

Again, if you recommend any research or data, feel free to contact on Twitter!

Dataset available here.