Can e-health apps improve men’s health?

Covid-19, Drugs

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A recent Canadian study explored the impact of an e-health program on men’s health.

Worldwide, the life expectancy for men is 69.8 years – five years less than that for women. Biology plays a part in why women live longer, but men’s behavior makes up the rest. Traditionally men are less likely to seek medical help, and according to one survey, men would rather clean the house than go to the doctor.

Risky behaviors and the leading causes of death in men, such as heart disease, liver failure, and accidents, are largely preventable. One of the most promising avenues to promote healthy behaviors is through e-health apps. Scientists are working to develop e-health programs that are free and accessible to men, regardless of their educational or economic background. 

One such program is the Don’t Change Much (DCM e-health) website in Canada. This program provides health tips, exercise, and other resources to encourage men to practice healthy behaviors. To determine whether e-health programs improve men’s health, a Canadian study recently compared the health of men using DCM e-health versus men who did not. Their results were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The study compared 863 men that used DCM e-health to 2000 men that did not use any e-health program. All participants provided data in a questionnaire, including demographics, recent (in the past year), and planned (in the next month) health changes. Participants could select from specific actions, including changes to eating or drinking habits, exercise, healthcare, weight loss, and smoking.

The DCM e-health participants answered additional questions about their use of the health app. Components of the program are the website, an email newsletter, and social media. Participants reported which of the components they used. Users of the components then answered additional questions to classify their frequency and duration of DCM e-health use. 

The data was statistically analyzed to determine if there was any correlation between participants’ health data and their use of DCM e-health components. 

The researchers found that using the DCM e-health app did improve the health habits of the participants. For example, 75% of regular DCM e-health users ate more healthy meals, 70% exercised more, 56% tried to sit less and move more, 46% lost weight, and 45% cut back on alcohol consumption. 

Study co-author Nick Black said in a press release, “e-health sites like this are particularly relevant for men during the COVID-19 lockdown, and potentially into the future as an alternative to physical facilities. They can choose and freely use content that is relevant and timely for them, any time they want.”

Written by Rebecca K. Blankenship, B.Sc.

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1. Oliffe J, Black N, Yiu J, Flannigan R, McCreary D, Goldenberg S. Mapping Canadian Men’s Recent and Intended Health Behavior Changes Through the Don’t Change Much Electronic Health Program. J Med Internet Res. 2020;22(5):e16174. doi:10.2196/16174

2. Published 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020.

3. FastStats. Published 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020.

4. Life expectancy. World Health Organization. Published 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020.

5. WHO | Female life expectancy. Published 2020. Accessed June 15, 2020.

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay 

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