Digital mental health in China: a systematic review

Xiaolong Zhang, Shôn Lewis, Joseph Firth, Xu Chen, Sandra Bucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mental health problems are highly prevalent in China; however, China's mental health services lack resources to deliver high-quality care to people in need. Digital mental health is a promising solution to this short-fall in view of the population's digital literacy. In this review, we aim to: (i) investigate the effectiveness, acceptability, usability, and safety of digital health technologies (DHTs) for people with mental health problems in China; (ii) critically appraise the literature; and (iii) make recommendations for future research directions. The databases MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Web of Science, CNKI, WANFANG, and VIP were systemically searched for English and Chinese language articles evaluating DHTs for people with mental health problems in mainland China. Eligible studies were systematically reviewed. The heterogeneity of studies included precluded a meta-analysis. In total, 39 articles were retrieved, reporting on 32 DHTs for various mental health problems. Compared with the digital mental health field in the West, the Chinese studies targeted schizophrenia and substance use disorder more often and investigated social anxiety mediated by shame and culturally specific variants, DHTs were rarely developed in a co-production approach, and methodology quality was less rigorous. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review focused on digital mental health in the Chinese context including studies published in both English and the Chinese language. DHTs were acceptable and usable among Chinese people with mental health problems in general, similar to findings from the West. Due to heterogeneity across studies and a paucity of robust control trial research, conclusions about the efficacy of DHTs are lacking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2552-2570
Number of pages19
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number15
Early online date28 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2021


  • China
  • co-production
  • cultural adapation
  • digital mental health
  • schizophrenia
  • systematic review


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