Health apps a ‘double-edged sword’ warn experts


Health and wellness apps are turning Australia into the world's most health conscious nation, according to new data.

Australia has become the top user of health apps around the globe, racking up the highest number of searches to help track weight and mental health in 2020, according to analysis of search data by comparison service USwitch.

Aussies searched for health apps to track weight, sleep, fitness, running, body and mental health over 100,000 times in the past five years, the highest search rate per capita globally.

It comes as app analytics ­revealed up to 75 per cent of ­mobile users downloaded health apps amid lockdown measures in 2020.


Dee Zibara uses a
Dee Zibara uses a "wide range" of fitness, health and mindfulness apps to keep herself happy and healthy. Picture: Justin Lloyd

Nutritionist and wellbeing ­expert Nina Kingsford-Smith said more Aussies were likely downloading health-based apps to keep themselves fit and happy in the midst of the pandemic due to "convenience".

"We're increasingly reliant on technology for lots of things, so it makes sense apps can now give people the convenience of managing their health," Ms Kingsford-Smith said.

"The upside of these apps is they're easily accessible and connect people to communities and resources online when things like gyms are unavailable, it's a clever way to work around physical ­barriers."

Mental health was found to be Australia's biggest health concern, according to the data. Headspace was the most used health app across the country last year, followed by meditation app Calm, which saw over 20 million downloads globally in 2020.



Ms Kingsford-Smith said the pandemic had helped ­people ­become "more attuned" to their inner wellbeing, but warned smartphone-based pro­grams could also be a ­"double-edged sword".

"There's an interesting paradox in encouraging people to use their phones for mindfulness and health when it's often phone and social media use that induces anxiety … it can be tricky to navigate," she said.

Frenchs Forest personal trainer Dee Zibara, 29, has used health apps "for almost a decade" and has a folder of 14 on her smartphone which she uses each week, including Headspace and Calm.

"I have apps for food, for ­exercise, for my heart rate, sleeping and mental health … I think it's important for people to take control of their own health and (apps) allow for that in your own pocket," Ms Zib­ara said. "There are heaps of apps available which can all help address different aspects of your health … you just need to find the ones that work for you."




Originally published as Health apps a 'double-edged sword' warn experts

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