A systematic review of studies has found that digital tools such as wearables, apps, and other techs are ineffective at improving physical activity for people with low socioeconomic status, according to MobiHealthNews.
The review, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, includes the findings of 19 studies.
The study authors wrote, “Digital interventions targeting PA
do not show equivalent efficacy for people of low and high SES [socioeconomic status].”
“For people of low SES, there is no evidence that digital PA interventions are effective, irrespective of the behavior change techniques used,” they added. “In contrast, the same interventions in high SES participants do indicate effectiveness.”
Low socioeconomic status groups had a standardized mean difference in physical activity of 0.06, compared to high socioeconomic status (0.34).
The investigators wrote, “The studies used a range of digital technologies and BCTs [behavior change techniques] in their interventions, but the main findings were consistent across all of the subgroup analyses (digital interventions with a PA only focus, country, chronic disease, and duration of intervention), and there was no association with the number or type of BCTs.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says only one in four Americans gets the recommended amount of physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity can lead to chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
However, the researchers said more studies are required to study which BCTs could serve these populations. They also want to know whether lower digital health literacy could impact physical activity.
The authors wrote, “Increasing access to information communication and wearable technology amongst even the most vulnerable people has led to digital interventions being championed as a tool for reducing inequalities in health promotion.”
“This study suggests that in a PA context the opposite is true, that is, people who would benefit the most from these interventions are being left behind,” they added. “We recommend that future development of digital interventions aimed at improving PA must make more effort to meet the needs of low SES people within the target population.”