In JMIR formative research
BACKGROUND : Emotional Intelligence (EI) and mindfulness can impact the level of anxiety and depression that an individual experiences. These symptoms have been exacerbated in college students during the COVID-19 pandemic. AjivarTM is an application that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to deliver personalized mindfulness and EI training.
OBJECTIVE : The main objective of this research study was to determine the effectiveness of delivering an EI curriculum and mindfulness techniques using an AI conversation platform, AjivarTM to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression during this pandemic.
METHODS : 95 subjects ages 18-29 years were recruited from a second semester freshmen of students. All participants completed the online TestWell inventory at the start and at the end of the 14 week semester. The comparison group (n=45) was given routine mental wellness instruction. The intervention group (n=50) were required to complete AjivarTM activities in addition to routine mental wellness instruction during the semester, which coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This group also completed assessments to evaluate for anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale, GAD-7) and depression (Patient Health Questionnaire, PHQ-9).
RESULTS : Study participants were 19.81.9 years old, 28% males (27/95), and 60% Caucasian. No significant demographic differences existed between the comparison and intervention groups. Subjects in the intervention group interacted with AjivarTM for a mean of 14241168 minutes. There was a significant decrease in anxiety as measured by GAD-7 (11.471.85 at the start of the study compared to 6.271.44, P<0.01, at the end). There was a significant reduction in the symptoms of depression measured by PHQ-9 (10.692.04 vs. 6.692.41, P<0.01). Both the intervention and the comparison groups independently had significant improvements in pre-post TestWell inventory. The subgroups in the inventory for social awareness and spirituality showed significant improvement in the intervention group. In a group of participants (n=11) where GAD-7 was available during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it showed an increase in anxiety (11.012.16 at the start to 13.031.34, P=0.23) in mid-March (onset of pandemic) to a significant decrease at the end of the study period (6.31.44, P<0.01).
CONCLUSIONS : It is possible to deliver EI and mindfulness training in a scalable way using the AjivarTM app during the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in improvements in anxiety, depression, and EI in the college population.
Sturgill Ronda, Martinasek Mary, Schmidt Trine, Goyal Raj