The use of social features in mobile health interventions to promote physical activity: a systematic review

Huong Ly Tong, Liliana Laranjo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
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Mobile health (mHealth) technologies have increasingly been used in interventions to promote physical activity (PA), yet, they often have high attrition rates. Integrating social features into mHealth has the potential to engage users; however, little is known about the efficacy and user engagement of such interventions. Thus, the aim of this systematic review was to characterize and evaluate the impact of interventions integrating social features in mHealth interventions to promote PA. During database screening, studies were included if they involved people who were exposed to a mHealth intervention with social features, to promote PA. We conducted a narrative synthesis of included studies and a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Nineteen studies were included: 4 RCTs, 10 quasi-experimental, and 5 non-experimental studies. Most experimental studies had retention rates above 80%, except two. Social features were often used to provide social support or comparison. The meta-analysis found a non-significant effect on PA outcomes [standardized difference in means = 0.957, 95% confidence interval −1.09 to 3.00]. Users’ preferences of social features were mixed: some felt more motivated by social support and competition, while others expressed concerns about comparison, indicating that a one-size-fits-all approach is insufficient. In summary, this is an emerging area of research, with limited evidence suggesting that social features may increase user engagement. However, due to the quasi-experimental and multi-component nature of most studies, it is difficult to determine the specific impact of social features, suggesting the need for more robust studies to assess the impact of different intervention components.
Original languageEnglish
Article number43
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Journalnpj Digital Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2018

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Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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