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Thesis: Mobile phone-based Wellness Diary supports long-term management of wellness.



VTT Research Scientist Elina Mattila has written a PhD thesis on how the Wellness Diary, a mobile phone-based application, can promote and support the wellness of working-age people. The results from user studies have been encouraging. Mobile phones, which users typically carry around everywhere, are well suited to multifaceted, continuous and individual management of health and wellness. Long-term use of the Wellness Diary was promoted for its mobility, simplicity, automatic feedback and adaptation to individual needs.

The mobile phone offers a little-used but potentially cost-efficient means of supporting wellness. For her PhD thesis, VTT Research Scientist Elina Mattila developed a mobile phone-based Wellness Diary application in co-operation with Nokia and the University of Tampere. The underlying idea was that management of wellness is based on each individual’s own activities and lifestyle. Studies show that the mobile phone applications, which users carry around with them, work well as an everyday support for long-term and voluntary management of wellness.

The Wellness Diary is an easy-to-use mobile phone-based programme, with which users can actively manage their own wellness. Users store data in their mobile phone on their wellness goals and progress with regard to exercise, eating, sleeping, blood pressure, stress and weight, for example. There are 16 different trackable variables. The aim is to learn how to improve one’s wellness through monitoring and experience. The application automatically provides feedback on recorded observations, which makes the changes in wellness concrete to the user and supports long-term monitoring. The data can be passed on to a personal trainer, a friend, or even a doctor, for example.

The most important aim of the PhD thesis was to promote management of wellness using the mobile phone. Results obtained on the basis of the experience of three different user groups over a period of five years indicate that the Wellness Diary is well suited to active use over several months. The users appreciated the opportunity to monitor their own wellness over the long term from different perspectives, and felt that they enjoyed many benefits by using the application. Mobility, simplicity, automatic feedback and adaptation to individual needs promoted active usage.

The test users were working-age individuals. The first test group tried out the weight management version of the Wellness Diary in 2004–2005, while the second group tried out the stress management version in 2005. The current version of the Wellness Diary, featuring 16 variables, was used as part of a multifaceted health promotion programme in a study carried out over the period 2008–2009. There were 118 participants in this user group, each of whom displayed at least two health risks, such as overweight, insufficient exercise, stress, alcohol use, smoking, or risk of diabetes. The Wellness Diary was used in the study as part of a toolbox comprising different wellness technologies, which was designed to support group-based health promotion intervention.

The lessons gleaned from the study will in future be used to develop new wellness applications. The application is currently being utilised in a cardiac rehabilitation programme run by partner CSIRO (Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and Queensland Health, the preliminary results from which are positive and indicate that the application may also prove useful in managing, and rehabilitating from, illnesses.

The application was the result of co-operation between VTT, Nokia Research Center and the University of Tampere. Co-operation in research was also carried out with Kainuu hospital district, Rokua rehabilitation centre, and the Finnish Institute of Occupation Health. The study was funded by VTT, Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, and Nokia.

Link to the doctoral thesis

Further information and pictures from the Wellness Diary study:
Press release and images: Mobile phone application for weight management, 29 January 2001

The Wellness Diary application functions on Nokia’s S60-based mobile phone and can be downloaded free of charge from Nokia’s website: