Headspace for work app: Mindfulness science or scam?

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Credit: Headspace

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.

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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.

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