We all know that mobile applications (apps) have the potential to help people increase their physical activity, but little is known about the behavior change techniques marketed in these apps.
The majority of apps available today incorporate fewer than four behavior change techniques…
The most common techniques involved providing instruction on how to perform exercises, providing feedback on performance and goal-setting for physical activity. A latent class analysis revealed the existence of two types of apps, educational and motivational, based on their configurations of behavior change techniques.
Mental health and behaviour change techniques tend to not be widely marketed in physical activity apps. Based on the available descriptions of the observed techniques in health behavior theories, people may need multiple apps to maintain a healthy behavior change.
Mental health and behaviour change technology has fallen behind and the unique nature of mental health services can make it difficult to develop a technology that successfully intervenes in human behaviour. However, with advanced research geared towards behavioural change and mental health, an increasing number of organisations are innovating in this space.
The noticeable signs of mental health are generally behavioural, and seeing as though most people now have smart phones at their disposal, access to technology that can monitor behavioural patterns seems like an obvious next step. This technology can be used to assess behavioural patterns that are typical of a person who may suffer from mental health issues.
Dr Uri Nivo explains how this new technology could benefit people wanting to change or monitor their behaviour.
“Bipolar disorder, for example, starts with a manic episode. A patient who usually makes five or ten calls a day might suddenly start making dozens of calls a day. How much they talk, text, how many places they visit, when they go to bed and for how long — these are all indicators of mental health and provide important insights to clinicians who want to catch a disorder before it is full blown.”
With fitbits and other popular smart devices that help people track their physical activity and wellbeing, it only makes sense that there would be a specialized app to support behavioural change and mental health.
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