The scientific feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of Noom Mood

by | May 11, 2022 | Last updated May 17, 2022

Mental well-being and Noom Mood

Mental wellness or well-being is when “an individual realizes his or her own abilities and can cope with the normal stresses of life”. Unfortunately, millions of individuals around the world struggle with their mental wellness. In the US alone, 57 to 84% of adults have reported feeling very stressed or worried, and these numbers have grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Feeling stressed or sad, or otherwise struggling with mental wellness, makes it more likely to experience mental and physical distress, health issues, and impaired productivity and attendance at daily work or functions. The burden of poor mental wellness on businesses, healthcare systems, and individuals exceeds hundreds of billions of dollars each year. 

Further, many US adults report not knowing exactly how to manage their mental wellness. They feel they don’t have the time or the confidence to manage their stress or worry levels on their own or with the tools and structures they currently have access to. Noom Mood was built in order to meet that gap, providing structure and support (e.g., structured lessons and supportive coaching) that is scalable and generalizable (e.g., can be used by many different people or needs). And crucially, Noom Mood was built based on evidence-backed therapeutic techniques including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), to ensure that the program puts forward the best and latest behavioral science. 

At Noom, we find it important to not only base our products on scientific evidence, but also to scientifically evaluate their effectiveness. Therefore, after launching Noom Mood late last year, we followed academic (specifically, implementation science) standards for evaluating new programs. The general guidance is to start by assessing the feasibility (is this program usable?), acceptability (is this program acceptable to users?), and initial outcomes (is this program effective?) of a new program. In a now published study in JMIR Formative Research, we evaluated the feasibility, acceptability, and initial outcomes of Noom Mood. 

Study

113 new users of Noom Mood completed a survey at baseline and another survey 4 weeks later. 

We found that the vast majority of participants found Noom Mood to be feasible and acceptable. More specifically…

  • 77% said the program was easy to use
  • 85% said that most people would learn to use this program very quickly
  • An overwhelming majority of participants thought the program was acceptable, with 81% feeling confident to recommend the program to a friend and 79% thinking the program really will help to reduce stress and anxiety 

In addition to seeming useful and usable, the program worked incredibly well. Outcomes as measured by scientifically validated questionnaires were as follows: 

OutcomePercent improvement 4 weeks later
Anxious feelings36%
Perceived stress21%
Depressive feelings33%
Emotion regulation14%
Optimism15%

According to scientific standards, these are statistically significant, large effects. 

Additionally, we learned that Noom Mood….

  • taught effective skills (e.g., cognitive defusion) and emotional management
  • provided effective materials (e.g., evidence-based articles, activities, and coaching)
  • encouraged active reflection (e.g., awareness of emotions and thought patterns)
  •  provided clear structure (e.g., a suggested schedule and list of suggested tasks/activities). 

What else did we learn?

The results were strong, especially for anxious and depressive feelings – this, of course, makes a lot of sense given that Noom Mood provides evidence-based support and psychoeducation on recognizing, understanding, and replacing negative thought patterns. We were also pleasantly surprised to see strong effects for optimism, which we thought would not change much. Optimism is an overall positive orientation towards the future (e.g., “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best” and “Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad”). As you might expect, optimism is related to mental well-being (and in particular, things like anxiety symptoms, stress, and depressive feelings), but few programs have measured this as an outcome. To our knowledge, this is the first mobile mental well-being program to show significant improvements in optimism. And we found that participants’ optimism was related to their other mental well-being outcomes, meaning the higher their optimism, the better their mental well-being (with less stress and fewer anxiety symptoms or depressive feelings). Ultimately, this means that optimism could be an indicator to keep an eye on in the future. And overall, participants got more optimistic on Noom Mood in addition to experiencing better mental well-being – all things that can help them to get ever closer to “realizing their own abilities and coping with the normal stresses of life”!

Takeaways

This study showed that Noom Mood significantly and strongly improved mental well-being (including anxious feelings, perceived stress, depressive feelings, emotion regulation, and optimism) four weeks later and was seen as feasible and acceptable. Now that we have conducted this initial evaluation, our goal is to conduct even more scientific evaluations/studies of the program – from looking at different outcomes (like work productivity and absenteeism) to using randomized controlled trials and longer time periods to more rigorously assess effectiveness.

References

(1) Mental health: Strengthening our response. World Health Organization. 2018 Mar 30.   URL: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response

(2) Canady VA. APA stress report amid COVID-19 points to parental challenges. Mental Health Weekly. 2020 May 29.   URL: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mhw.32385 

(3) Witters D, Harter J. Worry and stress fuel record drop in US life satisfaction. Gallup. 2020 May 08.   URL: https://news.gallup.com/poll/310250/worry-stress-fuel-record-drop-life-satisfaction.aspx 

(4) Turna J, Zhang J, Lamberti N, Patterson B, Simpson W, Francisco AP, Bergmann CG, Van Ameringen M. Anxiety, depression and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic: Results from a cross-sectional survey. Journal of psychiatric research. 2021 May 1;137:96-103.

(5) Rosch P. The quandary of job stress compensation. Stress Health 2001;3:1-4.

(6) Whiteford A, Degenhardt L, Rehm J, Baxter AJ, Ferrari AJ, Erskine HE, et al. Global burden of disease attributable to mental and substance use disorders: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 2013 Nov 09;382(9904):1575-1586. 

(7) American Psychological Association. Stress in America Findings 2010. Report available at: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2010/national-report.pdf

(8) Forgeard M, Seligman M. Seeing the glass half full: A review of the causes and consequences of optimism. Prat Psychol 2012 Jun;18(2):107-120.