Research projects

Music as a Canary

Principal researchers

Associate Professor Nikki Rickard

Associate Professor Dianne Vella-Brodrick 

Professor Nick Allen 

Professor Debra Rickwood 

Professor Kate Smith-Miles 


Monash University

University of Melbourne

University of Oregon

University of Canberra



Award type   

Strategic Research

Project completion year      


Project aim

The aim of this project was to develop an innovative methodology to achieve daily monitoring of individuals in a non-intrusive way. MoodPrism is a new smartphone app that tracks moods over time to support mental health and well-being. This raises self-awareness of emotional state, and can signal when the risk of depression or anxiety has increased. MoodPrism also provides links to mental health services to assist an individual to seek the help they might need.

Project brief  

Mood tracking apps like MoodPrism are a contemporary means of addressing mental health needs by engaging users with their feelings, providing feedback on increased risk of depression and anxiety, and linking the user with mental health services. MoodPrism functions like a modern day mood diary, which asks users how they are feeling on a day-to-day basis. After answering a few questions, the app converts and records responses into a colourful ‘Mood History’. Users can explore their Mood History at any time to gain insight into their emotional well-being and overall mental health. This can provide insight into patterns of mood and whether these fluctuate with certain people or places, or times of the week. The more the app is used, the more detailed this information becomes. Positive functioning scores are unlocked after one week’s use. Depression and anxiety scores are unlocked after two weeks of use. MoodPrism is one of the few apps with a focus on enhancing positive psychological functioning as well as alleviating negative symptoms of depression and anxiety, and is therefore designed to help everyone achieve their best possible mental health. MoodPrism also provides health information that is tailored to daily mood scores, linking this to a range of appropriate online mental health resources like beyondblue and Headspace.

The funding received by beyondblue support the design, development and trial of the research version of the app. Research on the outcome measures was beyond scope of this initial funding. A sample of 164 users who used MoodPrism for at least 2 weeks was obtained to assess usability. User feedback was obtained from two different sources; a feedback survey built into the app, and the Mobile Application Rating Scale. Feedback indicated that users found MoodPrism to be enjoyable, engaging and interesting to use, and the content credible. Areas of potential improvement related to how motivating the app was, the functionality of the app and the content load.

The app was also analysed to assess whether it generated data that would be useful for predicting mental health in future research. Preliminary analyses suggest that all forms of data obtained by MoodPrism – psychometric surveys, daily ESM mood reports and automated data collection – are likely to assist in prediction of depression and anxiety. Finally, a preliminary assessment of whether using the app itself had any positive effect was also performed. At this stage, there is some indication that using MoodPrism can significantly enhance wellbeing scores, particularly for those with more severe depressive symptoms. Users who engage more with the app also appear to show increased emotional self-awareness and coping self-efficacy. These results require corroboration however in future research which is beyond the scope of this report.

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