A mobile healthy lifestyle intervention to promote mental health in adolescence: a mixed-methods evaluation

Carmen Peuters, Laura Maenhout, Greet Cardon, Annick De Paepe, Ann DeSmet, Emelien Lauwerier, Kenji Leta, Geert Crombez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: A healthy lifestyle may improve mental health. It is yet not known whether and how a mobile intervention can be of help in achieving this in adolescents. This study investigated the effectiveness and perceived underlying mechanisms of the mobile health (mHealth) intervention #LIFEGOALS to promote healthy lifestyles and mental health. #LIFEGOALS is an evidence-based app with activity tracker, including self-regulation techniques, gamification elements, a support chatbot, and health narrative videos.METHODS: A quasi-randomized controlled trial (N = 279) with 12-week intervention period and process evaluation interviews (n = 13) took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adolescents (12-15y) from the general population were allocated at school-level to the intervention (n = 184) or to a no-intervention group (n = 95). Health-related quality of life (HRQoL), psychological well-being, mood, self-perception, peer support, resilience, depressed feelings, sleep quality and breakfast frequency were assessed via a web-based survey; physical activity, sedentary time, and sleep routine via Axivity accelerometers. Multilevel generalized linear models were fitted to investigate intervention effects and moderation by pandemic-related measures. Interviews were coded using thematic analysis.RESULTS: Non-usage attrition was high: 18% of the participants in the intervention group never used the app. An additional 30% stopped usage by the second week. Beneficial intervention effects were found for physical activity (χ 2 1  = 4.36, P = .04), sedentary behavior (χ 2 1  = 6.44, P = .01), sleep quality (χ 2 1  = 6.11, P = .01), and mood (χ 2 1  = 2.30, P = .02). However, effects on activity-related behavior were only present for adolescents having normal sports access, and effects on mood only for adolescents with full in-school education. HRQoL (χ 2 2  = 14.72, P < .001), mood (χ 2 1  = 6.03, P = .01), and peer support (χ 2 1  = 13.69, P < .001) worsened in adolescents with pandemic-induced remote-education. Interviewees reported that the reward system, self-regulation guidance, and increased health awareness had contributed to their behavior change. They also pointed to the importance of social factors, quality of technology and autonomy for mHealth effectiveness. CONCLUSIONS: #LIFEGOALS showed mixed results on health behaviors and mental health. The findings highlight the role of contextual factors for mHealth promotion in adolescence, and provide suggestions to optimize support by a chatbot and narrative episodes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number44
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Humans
  • Adolescent
  • Quality of Life
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics/prevention & control
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Mobile Applications


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