Demand for the mindfulness and meditation app has skyrocketed since the Covid-19 pandemic and its ripple effects began taking a brutal toll on mental health. Downloads have jumped dramatically in recent months, and Headspace has been flooded with requests from companies looking to buoy their staffs’ well-being while they work from home.
But as Covid-19 catapults Headspace into a new stratosphere of popularity, experts say its scientific grounding is shakier than its subscription numbers might suggest.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of exciting pilot studies, and they should be commended for that,” said John Torous, the director of digital psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “But I don’t think we’ve seen rigorous, high quality, reproducible research.”
A smattering of studies indicate Headspace can help people feel more positive and less stressed, among other benefits… But with Headspace landing new corporate contracts, some experts say they’re worried that a growing number of companies might be relying too heavily on Headspace in lieu of other support for more serious mental health conditions like anxiety and depression — particularly during the pandemic, when rates of both appear to be climbing.
Outside experts say Headspace deserves credit for the data it has collected. But the quality and consistency of the findings — as well as the scope of the research — doesn’t yet line up with the hype the app has received.