Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Reach out and text someone - it may do some good

Texting has been blamed for everything from destroying the English language to wounding teens with " texting tendinitis."

But texting may not be the social menace it seems.

In fact, a simple "uok?" can make someone's day, especially if they're suffering from loneliness or depression, according to research from the University of California, Berkeley.

Story continues below advertisement

In an outreach project aimed at low-income Latinos with mental health problems, clinical psychologist Adrian Aguilera found that even automated text messages had a mood-boosting effect.

In 2010, Dr. Aguilera developed a texting program designed for patients in his cognitive behaviour therapy group. The automated messages prompted patients to think about how they were feeling at that moment, reply and hit "send."

Dr. Aguilera said his patients reported feeling more "connected" when they received the messages, which also included reminders to take their meds.

One of his patients described receiving an auto-text during a difficult situation: "I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved."

Although the texting project was supposed to wrap up after several weeks, about 75 per cent of patients asked to continue receiving the messages.

Mr. Aguilera said the project highlights the value of check-ins with therapists – if only through automated technology – and building on skills covered in therapy sessions.

The project's success may be due in part to his target population. According to a 2011 study by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center, African-American and Latino cellphone owners send and receive more text messages than Caucasians do.

Story continues below advertisement

But that doesn't mean the benefits of texting don't apply to all. More research is needed, of course, but the next time your teen is texting like crazy, you could tell yourself he's taking care of his psychological health.



Does texting make you feel closer to others?

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.