Mobile Health Behavior Tracking: Health Effects of Tracking Consistency and Its Prediction

42 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2020 Last revised: 1 May 2020

See all articles by Linda Hagen

Linda Hagen

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Yikun Jiang

University of California, Berkeley

Bärbel Knäuper

McGill University - Department of Psychology

Kosuke Uetake

Yale School of Management

Nathan Yang

Cornell Dyson

Date Written: April 6, 2020

Abstract

New technologies aimed at nudging large numbers of individuals towards healthier behavior (e.g., fitness trackers, wearables, A.I.-based health coaching) increasingly focus on allowing users to track their own health goal-directed behavior on an ongoing basis, in the hope to boost their progress. However, little is known about (1) whether or not consistent personal health behavior tracking actually yields noticeable health benefits (e.g., weight loss) in the long run and, if so, (2) what factors predict consistent tracking activity over time. Using data from a popular mobile fitness app, we use a novel machine learning method for flexible instrumental variable discovery to show that greater consistency in calorie tracking (i.e., greater frequency and continuity) leads to greater weight loss in the long-term. The importance of tracking in itself then motivates our predictive analytics, where we assess the importance of progress-based (e.g., past weight loss, staying within one’s calorie budget), behavior-based (e.g., last period’s exercise and food calories, past tracking behavior), and demography-based (e.g., age, gender, initial weight, initial distance to goal weight) features for predicting consistent tracking. This predictive analysis reveals that while behavior-based features are among the most important predictors, progress-based predictors are also important (e.g., past calories over/under budget).

Keywords: Behavioral Analytics; Digital and Mobile Health Marketing; Predictive Analytics; Self-Control and Motivation

Suggested Citation

Hagen, Linda and Jiang, Yikun and Knäuper, Bärbel and Uetake, Kosuke and Yang, Nathan, Mobile Health Behavior Tracking: Health Effects of Tracking Consistency and Its Prediction (April 6, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3573193 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3573193

Linda Hagen

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Yikun Jiang

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Bärbel Knäuper

McGill University - Department of Psychology

1205 Dr. Penfield Ave.
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1
Canada

Kosuke Uetake

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Nathan Yang (Contact Author)

Cornell Dyson ( email )

Warren Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-6201
United States

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