Finnish study: Appeal of well-being applications often short-lived

May 30, 2014

According to a doctoral thesis by Research Scientist Kirsikka Kaipainen from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, online and mobile applications for stress management and healthy eating reach a large number of users but their appeal tends to be short-lived. Applications can contribute to improved well-being and provide support for behavioural changes as long as they are simple, attractive and easy to integrate into everyday life. However, the societal impact of the applications may remain small unless real-world implementation, maintenance and dissemination are planned from the very beginning of the development process.

Kaipainen's study examined the use and impact of different applications and proposed new design principles for applications aimed at improving stress management skills and promoting healthy eating. Based on the findings, freely available applications can reach a large number of users, but their appeal is often short-lived.

Six studies on online and mobile applications for stress management and healthy eating were conducted with diverse settings and target groups. Two of the studies assessed the use of online and mobile applications for healthy eating and found that less than 10 per cent of the almost 200,000 users they attracted remained active.

Based on the findings, applications for stress management and healthy eating can help users to change their lifestyles, but the development process is in need of refinement. In order to make an impact on public health, both end users and professionals need to be involved in the development of well-being applications, business potential needs to be taken into account from the start, and the applications should be based on theory. Personal feedback and support from a professional continue to be important for users. The design of the applications should be clear and user-friendly, support small daily actions that result in immediate benefits, emphasise self-improvement and reflection, and offer guidance while maintaining freedom of choice.

"For individual users, the applications should aim to become redundant once the users have learned enough skills and gained self-knowledge. For society as a whole, these applications could be incorporated into education and healthcare systems and used to complement professionals' work," says Research Scientist Kirsikka Kaipainen from VTT.

There are currently at least 100,000 mobile applications around the world aimed at promoting health and well-being, of which about one in six are designed for professionals. The number of users worldwide is estimated to grow to 1.7 billion by 2017.

At worst, long-term stress and unhealthy eating habits can lead to mental health problems and contribute to cardiovascular diseases. These are serious problems: Depression is currently the leading cause of disability in the world, and coronary heart disease the leading cause of death. Online and mobile applications offer a partial solution to scalable promotion of healthy lifestyles, as almost everyone has easy access to them nowadays. Well-being applications can be used independently or to support professional interventions.
-end-
M. Sc. Kirsikka Kaipainen's doctoral thesis, Design and Evaluation of Online and Mobile Applications for Stress Management and Healthy Eating, was examined and approved at the Faculty of Computing and Electrical Engineering of Tampere University of Technology on May 16th, 2014.

The thesis is available online at http://www.vtt.fi/inf/pdf/science/2014/S55.pdf.

For more information, contact:

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Kirsikka Kaipainen, Research Scientist
Tel. +358 20 722 3036 kirsikka.kaipainen@vtt.fi

Further information on VTT:

Olli Ernvall
Senior Vice President, Communications
358 20 722 6747
olli.ernvall@vtt.fi
http://www.vtt.fi

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

VTT is a leading multitechnological applied research organization in Northern Europe. VTT creates new technology and science-based innovations in co-operation with domestic and foreign partners. Every third Finnish technology innovation contains VTT expertise. VTT's turnover is EUR 310 million and its personnel totals 2,900.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Related Healthy Eating Articles from Brightsurf:

Following a variety of healthy eating patterns associated with lower heart disease risk
Greater adherence to a variety of healthy eating patterns was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to new research led by Harvard T.H.

Examining the association between healthy eating patterns and risk of cardiovascular disease
Whether several recommended healthy eating patterns that combine various nutrients and foods are associated with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, was the focus of this observational study that used data from three large study groups with up to 32 years of follow-up.

Healthy eating behaviors in childhood may reduce the risk of adult obesity and heart disease
Encouraging children to make their own decisions about food, within a structured environment focused on healthy food choices, has been linked to better childhood nutrition and healthier lifelong eating behaviors.

Kids twice as likely to eat healthy after watching cooking shows with healthy food
Television programs featuring healthy foods can be a key ingredient in leading children to make healthier food choices now and into adulthood.

Research affirms imaging technique's ability to characterize healthy and non-healthy tissue
In an article published in the peer-reviewed SPIE publication Journal of Biomedical Optics (JBO), 'Influence of neoadjuvant chemotherapy on diffuse reflectance spectra of tissue in breast surgery specimens,' research observed across 92 ex vivo breast specimens suggests that there is little to no impact on the optical signatures of breast tissue after neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Heart-healthy lifestyle and nutrition during pregnancy helps kids develop healthy hearts
Good cardiovascular health during pregnancy -- a composite of optimal blood pressure, body mass index, blood sugar level, total cholesterol and not smoking -- increases the chance of having a child with good cardiovascular health at ages 10-14.

Study: To encourage healthy eating, focus on mobile produce and farmers markets
A UBuffalo Ph.D. student conducted a literature review of studies on new mobile produce markets, farmers markets and grocery stores, and how each affected a key outcome: Increasing produce consumption in under-resourced neighborhoods.

Review of 96 healthy eating studies finds 'nudges' yield best changes in eating habits
A gentle nudge in the right direction is sometimes all people need.

Stanford psychologists show leading with flavor encourages healthy eating
Most people want to eat healthier, but efforts to encourage healthy eating by providing nutrition information have not changed habits much.

Touting flavor before nutrition encourages healthy eating
Most people want to eat healthier, but efforts to encourage healthy eating by providing nutrition information have not drastically changed habits.

Read More: Healthy Eating News and Healthy Eating Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.