Using Smartphone Apps to Promote Psychiatric and Physical Well-Being
This pilot study tested the acceptability and usability of a prototype app designed to promote the physical well-being of adults with psychiatric disorders. The application under evaluation, WellWave, promoted walking as a physical exercise, and offered a variety of supportive non-physical activities, including confidential text-messaging with peer staff, and a digital library of readings and videos on recovery from psychiatric illness. Study participants engaged strongly in the app throughout the 4-week study, showing a 94 % mean daily usage rate, and a 73 % mean response rate across all electronic messages and prompts, which approximates the gold standard of 75 % for momentary ecological assessment studies. Seven of the ten study participants averaged two or more walks per week, beginning with 5-min walks and ending with walks lasting 20 min or longer. This responsiveness to the walking prompts, and the overall high rate of engagement in other app features, suggest that adults with psychiatric conditions would welcome and benefit from similar smartphone interventions that promote healthy behaviours in life domains other than exercise. Pilot study results also suggest that smartphone applications can be useful as research tools in the development and testing of theories and practical strategies for encouraging healthy lifestyles. Participants were prompted periodically to rate their own health quality, perceived control over their health, and stage-of-change in adopting a walking routine, and these electronic self-ratings showed acceptable concurrent and discriminant validity, with all participants reporting moderate to high motivation to exercise by the end of the study.