Chronic stress has been shown to be associated with disease. This link is not only direct but also indirect through harmful health behavior such as smoking or changing eating habits. The recent mHealth trend offers a new and promising approach to support the adoption and maintenance of appropriate stress management techniques. However, only few studies have dealt with the inclusion of evidence-based content within stress management apps for mobile phones.
The aim of this study was to evaluate stress management apps on the basis of a new taxonomy of effective emotion-focused stress management techniques and an established taxonomy of behavior change techniques.
Two trained and independent raters evaluated 62 free apps found in Google Play with regard to 26 behavior change and 15 emotion-focused stress management techniques in October 2015.
The apps included an average of 4.3 behavior change techniques (SD 4.2) and 2.8 emotion-focused stress management techniques (SD 2.6). The behavior change technique score and stress management technique score were highly correlated (r=.82, P=.01).
The broad variation of different stress management strategies found in this sample of apps goes in line with those found in conventional stress management interventions and self-help literature. Moreover, this study provided a first step toward more detailed and standardized taxonomies, which can be used to investigate evidence-based content in stress management interventions and enable greater comparability between different intervention types.