Rethinking Healthcare

How more text messages can make you happier

How more text messages can make you happier

Posting in Technology

Text messages, even automated ones, can help depressed people feel nurtured.

I'll admit it, I'm a compulsive cell phone checker. I mindlessly click my screen throughout the day, all for the sake of that little rush of affirmation I get when I see someone's reached out to me via text.

Which is odd, right? Don't we hear all the time that text messages are an impersonal form of communication, a means of spreading illiteracy and degrading of our culture?

There may be something to that joy I get from receiving text messages, says a UC Berkeley psychologist. Adrian Aguilera started sending automated text messages to his patients with depression back in 2010.

Aguilera published an analysis of his approach last December. He found his patients felt more connected and cared for when they received the texts.

"When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better," reported one patient in a UC Berkeley press release, "I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved."

"The feedback from patients offers new insight into the human need for regular contact or check-ins for mental health professionals, even if only through automated technology," Aguilera said in the press release.

Recently, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation rewarded Aguilera with a $75,000 grant to continue looking at the value of supplementing counseling with text message communication.

Photo: Nate Steiner/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure