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BMC Psychol. 2019 Jul 3;7(1):42. doi: 10.1186/s40359-019-0315-y.

Anxious or empowered? A cross-sectional study exploring how wearable activity trackers make their owners feel.

Author information

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Gate 12 Kintore Avenue, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.
Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition, and Activity, University of South Australia, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



The market for wearable activity trackers has grown prolifically in recent years, with increasing numbers of consumers using them to track, measure, and ideally improve their health and wellbeing. Empirical evidence tends to support wearables as valid, reliable, and effective health behaviour change tools, however little research has been conducted to understand experiential aspects of the devices, particularly thier effects on users' psychological wellbeing and affect. This study addresses this literature gap by exploring wearable users' affective responses to their devices and how these relate to personality traits and individual differences.


Data were collected from adult wearable users (N = 237) via an online survey that assessed participant demographic characteristics, personality trait profiles, and experiences of negative (guilt, self-consciousness, & anxiety) and positive affect (empowerment, motivation, & accountability) related to their wearable both during wear, and when unable to wear (e.g. if the battery ran flat). Outcomes were analysed descriptively and general linear models used to examine associations between affect scores with personality traits and individual differences.


Both current and previous wearable users experience more positive than negative affect related to their device whilst they were wearing it (p = <.001). When prevented from wearing their device, however, this pattern was reversed with most participants reporting stronger negative than positive affect (p = <.001). These patterns were generally consistent across demographic sub-groups and personality trait profiles, although conscientiousness and openness to experience were independently and positively associated with affect during wear (p = .001).


Results suggest that using a wearable is a positive experience for users with little risk of negative psychological consequences. Whilst experiences of negative affect were uncommon, individuals low in conscientiousness or openness to experience are at greater risk of negative affect and all users may experience negative affect such as anxiety or frustration when prevented from wearing their device. Findings contribute to mounting evidence of wearables' safety and appeal as health behaviour tools and highlight the importance of examining psychological and experiential aspects of activity tracking.


Affect; Behaviour change; Personality; Physical activity; Wearable activity tracker

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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