40% trust wellbeing apps… but should they?

cancer trials app story: male doctor using smartphone

A new survey from VicHealth shows two in five Victorians trust health and wellbeing apps for information about being healthy despite a new guide showing many may be ineffective.

VicHealth is today launching a Healthy Living Apps Guide which reviews more than 200 smartphone apps for their effectiveness in helping people lead healthier lifestyles.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter says digital technologies such as mobile phone apps are a great tool for promoting health and preventing illness, but that until now there have been no independent, evidence-based review of the quality and effectiveness of these apps.

“The majority (81%) of Australians own a smartphone and have access to thousands of apps that commit to helping them eat better, move more, quit smoking, drink less alcohol and manage stress levels,” says Rechter.

“We know that a quarter of Victorians have recently downloaded a health and wellbeing app, but with so many to choose from, people often struggle to find one that’s effective in helping them change their behaviour in a way that will help them live a healthier life.”

VicHealth’s Healthy Living Apps Guide is a user-friendly guide that provides an independent rating of apps.

Some of the apps featured include Nike+ Running, Fitbit, My Diet Diary Calorie Counter, Water your Body, Quit Now: My QuitBuddy, Tap to Smoke, Alcohol Cutdown Coach and Map my Fitness.

“Apps can be effective in helping people adopt healthier lifestyles, but the two in five Australians who trust them for information about being healthy should use them with caution,” says Rechter.

“We rated the apps on how user-friendly they are and how effective they’re likely to be in helping someone adopt a healthier lifestyle. We rated them out of five and the best rating achieved was three out of five.”

The VicHealth survey was undertaken by an independent agency and captured responses from 4062 Australians aged 18 and over; it found that two in five Australians think health and wellbeing apps are trustworthy sources of information about being healthy.

Women are more likely than men to trust these apps (44% versus 36%).

Significantly higher proportions of younger Australians (47% of 18-24 year olds and 50% of 25-34 year olds) think health and wellbeing apps are trustworthy sources of information compared to older Australians (32% of 55-64 year olds and 29% of 65-74 year olds).

Half of Australian parents of children under 12 (46%) also think they are trustworthy sources of information about being healthy.

A quarter of Victorians have downloaded a health and wellbeing app.

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