Roger Vilardaga, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at private research Duke University in North Carolina, says it's important to research the phenomena we interact with on a daily basis to understand their relevance and effectiveness, according to Mashable. Based on these beliefs, he and his colleagues turned to the analysis of mobile applications aimed at helping users to get rid of bad habits or otherwise improve the quality of life. The mechanism of operation of such programs is based on rewards: the system tracks the user's “success” and gives out bonuses for achieving “goals”. However, such a method is practically useless, and Vilardaga figured out why.
His research involved 30 of the more than 700 downloadable anti-smoking applications. Such a small sample is due to the fact that the developers of these three dozen created a product with a scientific base. And when creating only 4 out of 30 programs, the developers conducted detailed interviews with the target audience. The scientist explains: research interviews are extremely important, because the user can be easily misled. For example, in 2017, researchers found that 66% of smokers believed the so-called guidelines for changing habits, based on information from tobacco companies.
“Anyone can create a smoking cessation app. The public should be very careful about their use, "- quoted the professor Mashable.
The same situation is with weight loss, meditation and fitness apps. They sorely lack the scientific base and tests that would be conducted under the guidance of doctors. This is partly due to the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prefers not to interfere with the development of most health applications until they receive formal user complaints.
Nowadays, these mobile products are just as useful as electronic toys from the 90s. Many mental health apps send motivating messages to the smartphone owner, offer to share feelings, and remind them of the importance of proper breathing. Steven Schüller of the University of California, Irvine found that out of 20,000 psychotherapy applications, only 4% are equipped with a set of methods based on any scientific evidence.
A 2015 review of weight loss apps found that they lacked clear strategies for weight loss. "It's like recommending a drug that has never been tested," says Vilardaga.
That being said, experts do not deny the potential of health apps. According to Schüller and Vilardagi, the need of patients for regular medical care in a congested healthcare system provides ample opportunities for mobile technology. The number of downloads shows that the applications are more than necessary. However, their development should involve both specialized specialists and the users themselves, from whom feedback is required. This will help prepare better updates, as well as make the final product effective and capable of changing people's lives for the better.>