• 19 APR 13
    • 2
    Is there a mobile app that can reduce your stress?

    Is there a mobile app that can reduce your stress?

    Ann is a high-powered corporate lawyer, juggling work, court appearances, family and friends. Ann is always on her iPhone. The word “downtime” is not in her playbook. Running on a treadmill in the gym is an opportunity to use her phone to get things done at the office, keep tabs on the kids, and make sure her husband walks the dog and log some time on Facebook. Ann is a self-admitted light Facebook user, with all her online social interaction done on the iPhone Facebook app.

    Besides a busy lifestyle, Ann also has chronic lower back pain.

    Stress can undermine our health.

    The relationship between lower back pain and stress is well researched – over 25 years ago first reported here (Depressed mood in chronic low back pain: relationship with stressful life events)

    We conclude that previously reported associations between life events and CLBP are a function of the relationship between stressful life events and depressive symptoms, which are prevalent in CLBP.

    Smartphones and tablets are part of our life with consumer apps for every conceivable use from reading books (the Kindle App) to practicing jazz patterns (the iRealbook app) and private social networking for healthcare apps that help doctors improve their relationships with patients and reduce their own stress.

    Medical apps can identify pills, perform calculations, and help people with diabetes and a fast moving modern life-style control their condition..

    The number of new medical apps is growing rapidly with over 13,000 health and medical applications available to consumers and over 5,000 that are targeted to physicians (See Dina ElBoghdady’s June 2012 piece in the Washington Post  “Healthcare apps pit the FDA against the medical device industry”)

    Is there an app out there that can help people like our friend Ann, reduce stress?

    Introducing Facebook Home

    The family of apps that puts your friends at the heart of your phone. With Home, everything on your phone gets friendlier. From the moment you turn it on, you see a steady stream of friends’ posts and photos. Upfront notifications and quick access to your essentials mean you’ll never miss a moment. And you can keep chatting with friends, even when you’re using other apps.

    Will a friendlier phone, a steady stream of posts and photos, chatting and notifications reduce your stress?

    Probably not.

    More time in email and social media will probably increase your stress.

    While you’re busy chatting with friends or tweaking your personal Facebook profile to be the kind of guy you’d really like to be in order to impress women; your work, your studies, your family and other parts of your life are not happening.

    And that means that the stress is mounting up.

    Cambridge researcher Dirk Trossen created the AIRS app, to use smartphone sensors in order to measure physical changes in the handset user. AIRS records over 60 parameters, including ambient noise, social activity, environmental conditions, and posture.

    “You can also track moods expressed through emoticons, and use attached monitors to provide pulse and heart-rate data,” Trossen notes. Essex University researchers have developed a program that analyzes AIRS data and creates a story-inspired visualization on a computer.

    The goal of the AIRS mobile app is to get away from the conventional wisdom of stress indicators, such as heart rate, and help increase awareness of how stress can negatively impact us.

    “The fact that today’s workforce is likely to work longer than the previous generation increases the importance of stress management as an aspect of general well-being,”

    With better self-management, and stress reduction – people like our friend Ann may find a way to be aware of their stress, manage it and reduce or even resolve that chronic lower back-pain.

    And that – multiplied by millions of people can translate not only into better health and quality of life but reduced stress and reduced healthcare costs.

    See New Scientist online – How smartphones can help us keep stress at bay

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