Fitness watches generate useful information, but increase patient anxiety

Technology

How does measuring our sleep, exercise and heart rates using various apps and fitness watches affect us? Self-quantifying may better the understanding of our individual health, but according to a new study, it also gives rise to anxiety. The researchers have examined the experiences of fitness watch wearing patients with chronic heart problems.

Is my heart beating slightly fast? Is a heart attack coming? I didn’t sleep as much as I thought I had last night – is that bad for my heart? Health apps and fitness watches can shed considerable light on how our bodies work and make recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.

However, self-measuring can have a downside too, according to a new study that examined the experiences of 27 heart patients who used ‘Fitbit’ fitness watches to measure their sleep, heart rates and physical activity.

Although the 28-74 year-old heart patients learned more about their illnesses and were motivated to exercise during the six months that they wore the watches, they also became more anxious, explains Tariq Osman Andersen, an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Computer Science and one of the researchers behind the study:

“Our study shows that, overall, self-measurements are more problematic than beneficial when it comes to the patient experience. Patients begin to use the information from their Fitbits just as they would use a doctor. However, they don’t get help interpreting their watch data. This makes them unnecessarily anxious, or they may learn something that is far from reality,” he says.

Generates insecurity and anxiousness

Along with two other researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the company Vital Beats, Tariq Osman Andersen examined patients with cardiac arrhythmia and pacemakers through 66 qualitative interviews. They conclude that, overall, there are two points that include both the pros and cons of using Fitbit watches:

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