A Mobile App for Stress Management in Middle-Aged Men and Women (Calm): Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial

Breanne Laird, Megan Puzia, Linda Larkey, Diane Ehlers, Jennifer Huberty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Middle-aged adults (40-65 years) report higher stress levels than most other age groups. There is a need to determine the feasibility of using a meditation app to reduce stress and improve stress-related outcomes in middle-aged adults with a focus on men, as previous meditation app–based studies have reported a low proportion of or even no male participants. Objective: This study aims to (1) determine the feasibility (ie, acceptability and demand with a focus on men) of a consumer-based meditation app (Calm), to reduce stress among middle-aged adults reporting elevated stress levels, and (2) explore the preliminary effects of Calm on perceived stress, psychological outcomes (anxiety, depressive symptoms, mindfulness, and general coping), health behaviors (physical activity and eating habits), and COVID-19 perceptions. Methods: This feasibility randomized controlled trial evaluated an app-based meditation intervention in middle-aged adults (N=83) with elevated stress levels (ie, Perceived Stress Scale score ≥15) and limited or no previous experience with meditation. Participants were randomized to the intervention group (Calm app) or a control (educational podcasts; POD) group. Participants completed self-report assessments at baseline and postintervention (week 4). Feasibility was measured as acceptability and demand using Bowen framework. Feasibility and COVID-19 perceptions data were examined using descriptive statistics, and preliminary effects were evaluated using repeated measures analysis of variance. Results: Participants were satisfied with Calm (27/28, 96%) and found it appropriate or useful (26/28, 93%). Most reported they would likely continue using the Calm app (18/28, 64%). More Calm users reported satisfaction, appropriateness or usefulness, and intent to continue app use than POD users. Calm users (n=33) completed a mean of 20 (SD 31.1) minutes of meditation on the days they meditated and 103 (SD 109.1) minutes of meditation per week. The average adherence rate to the prescribed meditation was 71% among Calm app users, compared to 62% among POD users. Recruitment rate of men was 35% (29/83). Of those randomized to Calm, 55% (15/29) were men, and retention among them was higher (14/15, 93%) than that among women (12/20, 60%). No significant within or between group differences were observed. Conclusions: A 4-week, app-based mindfulness meditation intervention (Calm) may be feasible for middle-aged adults and a useful stress-management tool. Calm users expressed satisfaction with the app and felt it was appropriate and useful. Significant improvements in perceived stress and psychological outcomes or stress-related health behaviors were not observed. Even though men spent less time in meditation than women did and completed fewer weekly sessions, they were more likely to adhere to the prescription. Further research is needed for improving stress and stress-related outcomes among middle-aged adults with emphasis on the effects of mindfulness meditation apps for men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere30294
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Volume6
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • digital intervention
  • meditation
  • mental health
  • mHealth
  • mindfulness
  • mobile app
  • psychological outcomes
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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