We share some of our most intimate data with mental health apps, but there’s surprisingly little proof of what they give us in return.

Many medical experts are starting to find problematic the lack of clear science backing up apps that promise to help with everything from low mood to depression.

Bruce Bolam, program director at VicHealth, oversaw a recent review of more than 300 health and wellbeing apps.

While he praised the dynamism of a “free market of smartphone apps,” Bolam explained that while many apps scored top marks when it came to design and gamification, the science behind their treatment method was a lot weaker.

“In terms of actually providing proven tools to support behaviour change, there is a fairly big gap between what most apps do and what the science would say is best practice,” he told Mashable. “Can they help some individuals? Absolutely. Could they also put some individuals at risk or down the wrong track? Well, potentially.”

A recent study of suicide prevention apps undertaken by the Black Dog Institute found that of the 49 iOS and Android apps with interactive content reviewed, few followed “high quality evidence-based practice.”

A small number of apps even contained potentially harmful content, encouraging risky behaviour such as self-harm. App stores currently do little to help to consumers differentiate between apps that are evidence-based and those that are not

– Ariel Bogle

Read more: Too many mental health apps put style over substance