Burst versus continuous delivery design in digital mental health interventions: Evidence from a randomized clinical trial

Marta Anna Marciniak*, Lilly Shanahan, Kenneth S L Yuen, Ilya Milos Veer, Henrik Walter, Oliver Tuescher, Dorota Kobylińska, Raffael Kalisch, Erno Hermans, Harald Binder, Birgit Kleim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review



Digital mental health interventions delivered via smartphone-based apps effectively treat various conditions; however, optimizing their efficacy while minimizing participant burden remains a key challenge. In this study, we investigated the potential benefits of a burst delivery design (i.e. interventions delivered only in pre-defined time intervals) in comparison to the continuous delivery of interventions.


We randomly assigned 93 participants to the continuous delivery (CD) or burst delivery (BD) group. The CD group engaged in ReApp, a mobile app that increases positive cognitive reappraisal with a consistent delivery schedule that provides five prompts per day throughout the 3-week-long study, while the BD group received five daily prompts only in the first and third weeks of the study.


No significant differences were found between the groups in terms of adherence, mental health outcomes (specifically depressive and anxiety symptoms), level of perceived stress, and perceived helpfulness of intervention. The BD group showed a significantly decreased perceived difficulty of intervention over time.


The results suggest that the burst delivery may be as suitable for digital mental health interventions as the continuous delivery. The perceived difficulty of the intervention declined more steeply for the BD group, indicating that it improved the feasibility of the positive cognitive reappraisal intervention without hurting its efficacy. This outcome may inform the design of less burdensome interventions with improved outcomes in future research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDigital Health
Early online date30 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2024

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