Positive balance: Digital technology support for mental health and well-being during adolescence


Supervisor: Elisabetta Versace

Non-accademic partner: English National Ballet School Royal Ballet School

Studentship start date: 01/10/2023

Application deadline: 01/03/2023

Application details: If you have any questions about the project or application process please get in touch with the supervisor. For more information and how to apply please see https://www.qmul.ac.uk/sbbs/postgraduate/phd-programmes/projects/display-title-1002878-en.html

Elisabetta Versace:

For more information and how to apply click here

Experience with stressful events, such as life transitions and a demanding lifestyle can be detrimental to mental health and well-being. This problem is exacerbated in adolescence, during the transition to adult life. We previously showed that short positive psychology interventions delivered during adolescence can counteract the negative effects of stressful events, offering protection by drawing attention to character strengths, experiences of positive emotions, hope and meaning in life, thus effectively promoting psychological well-being. However, few adolescents have access to positive psychology interventions. This issue can be addressed with digital technologies open to a broader audience. The aim of this project is to develop and validate an open-source smartphone app (PositiveBalance) able to support positive psychology interventions in adolescence for a wide audience. We will focus on a group in the general population that can particularly benefit from this intervention, because exposed to stressful events during adolescence: dancers in vocational dance schools, that experience a quick transition to adult life while being exposed to high expectations and a demanding lifestyle, often from their family. Though a user-centred approach, we will adapt an in-person positive psychology intervention(based on fostering self-esteem, hope, optimism, self-compassion) to the digital format, engaging for adolescents.

First, we will run an in-person positive psychology intervention. To test for efficacy of the intervention, we will compare mental health and well-being before and after the intervention in control and experimental groups. Results and participants’ feedback will be used to adapt the intervention to the digital format and to refine the Positive Balance app for the second cohort. In the second year, the in-person positive psychology intervention will be alternated with digital activities delivered via the app, comparing the effect of in-person and digital delivery. We will also digitally engage with the previous cohort, to test the efficacy of follow-up digital activities. We will refine the app based on participants’ feedback, further improving app usability. In the third year, we will deliver the entire intervention via the app, compare the efficacy of in-person/partially digital/fully digital delivery and evaluate the potential advantages of follow-up digital interventions. The project will be run in collaboration with two non-academic partners, world leaders in the field of dance training: The Royal Ballet School and The English National Ballet School. These schools are advocates for mental health and a healthy lifestyle training. Through close collaboration with the health managers in the partner institutions, the project will benefit from access to an international cohort of adolescents, reflecting the needs of a variety of cultures. Moreover, since this population is likely to continue with a demanding lifestyle, participants will benefit from using the Positive Balance app during professional life, contributing to the impact of the project and long-term validation. Our partners will support us in tailoring the positive psychology activities to the dancers and manualising the intervention, with recruitment, space availability, and in outcome dissemination. The project will have a direct impact on the dancers and will provide fundamental evidence needed to evaluate and improve positive psychology and mental health digital interventions.