Exploring health anxiety and dependence in healthy adult users of m-Health apps and wearables
Mobile health technology (m-Health) is a fast growing industry based around the use of mobile apps, wearable sensors and devises to provide a personalised system of health management through monitoring a range of bodily signals and outputs. In line with the huge growth of m-Health use by healthy adults (as distinct from m-Health use in a clinical context) there have been growing numbers of anecdotal and media reports of users self-reporting symptoms of health anxiety as a result of use, and dependence or over-reliance on tracking and measuring. Yet to date, there is little to no psychological research into the use of m-Health technologies by healthy adults. This multi-strategy study explored whether health anxiety or dependence were evident in a group of healthy adult users. A study of N=85 users, using the Short Health Anxiety Inventory (Salkovskis, Rimes, Warwick & Clark, 2002) and questions adapted from the Problematic Mobile Phone Use Questionnaire (Billieux, Linden & Rochat, 2012), found no significant evidence of health anxiety or signs of dependence. However, qualitative participant responses uncovered some evidence of negative emotional outcomes linked to certain aspects of m-Health use. An unexpected finding from qualitative analysis pointed to negative associations with tracking goals around fitness, diet and point-scoring or gamification. The study suggest that this new use of technology requires further research in a number of specific areas, and puts forward some possible areas of focus.
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