According to a doctoral thesis by Research Scientist Kirsikka Kaipainen from
VTT Tech-nical 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. How-ever, the
societal impact of the applications may remain small unless real-world
implemen-tation, maintenance and dissemination are planned from the very
beginning of the devel-opment 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
Six studies on online and mobile applications for stress management and
healthy eating were con-ducted 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 con-tinue 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
re-flection, 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 inde-pendently or to support professional
M. Sc. Kirsikka Kaipainen’s doctoral thesis, Design and Evaluation of Online
and Mobile Applica-tions 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 /Documents/2014_S55.pdf.