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When it comes to mHealth apps, young adults are picky

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There are a number of valued features and characteristics that application developers should consider when creating health-related behavioral intervention smartphone apps for young adults, according to an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

"There is increasing interest from academics and clinicians in harnessing smartphone applications as a means of delivering behavioral interventions for health," states the article. "However, there remains little in depth research on users' [and potential users'] experiences and views on a wide range of features and technologies that apps are, or will soon be, capable of."

In particular, the article found that mobile health research on young adults is lacking, which is an "unfortunate omission," considering that this group comprises of "a good number of mobile technology adopters."

The objective of the study was to explore young adults' perspectives on apps related to health behavior change. Specifically, the study attempted to capture their experiences and views of features that might support health behavior change and issues that contribute to interest in and willingness to use such apps.

For the study, four focus groups were conducted with 19 students and staff at a university in the United Kingdom. Participants included 13 females and six males with a mean age of 23.79, according to the article. The focus group discussions centered on participants' experiences of using smartphone apps to support a healthy lifestyle, and their interest in and feelings about features and capabilities of such apps.

"Study findings suggested that young, currently healthy adults have some interest in apps that attempt to support health-related behavior change," states the article. "Accuracy and legitimacy, security, effort required, and immediate effects on mood emerged as important influences on app usage."

In addition, the ability to record and track behavior and goals and the ability to acquire advice and information "on the go" were valued. At the same time, context-sensing capabilities and social media features tended to be considered "unnecessary" and "off-putting," according to the article.

In related news, a study of text messaging designed to influence teens to adopt healthy lifestyles found that adolescents prefer messages with an active voice that reference teens and recommends specific, achievable behaviors. The 177 teenagers who participated in the study said that messages should come from nutrition professionals delivered as a text at a frequency of two messages or less per day.

As part of the study, test messages and a mobile phone delivery protocol were developed to influence the nutrition and physical activity knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of adolescents. More than 300 messages and a delivery protocol were successfully developed.

To learn more:
- read the JMIR article

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