Mindfulness Meditation App Abandonment During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Observational Study

Mariah Sullivan, Jennifer Huberty, Yunro Chung, Chad Stecher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: Mindfulness meditation apps are used by millions of adults in the USA to improve mental health. However, many new app subscribers quickly abandon their use. The purpose of this study was to determine the behavioral, demographic, and socioeconomic factors associated with the abandonment of meditation apps during the COVID-19 pandemic. Method: A survey was distributed to subscribers of a popular meditation app, Calm, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 that assessed meditation app behavior and meditation habit strength, as well as demographic and socioeconomic information. App usage data were also collected from the start of each participant’s subscription until May 2021. A total of 3275 respondents were included in the analyses. Participants were divided into three cohorts according to their subscription start date: (1) long-term subscribers (> 1 year before pandemic start), (2) pre-pandemic subscribers (< 4 months before pandemic start), and (3) pandemic subscribers (joined during the pandemic). Results: Meditating after an existing routine was associated with a lower risk of app abandonment for pre-pandemic subscribers (hazard ratio = 0.607, 95% CI: 0.422, 0.874; p = 0.007) and for pandemic subscribers (hazard ratio = 0.434, 95% CI: 0.285, 0.66; p < 0.001). Additionally, meditating “whenever I can” was associated with lower risk of abandonment among pandemic subscribers (hazard ratio = 0.437, 95% CI: 0.271, 0.706; p < 0.001), and no behavioral factors were significant predictors of app abandonment among the long-term subscribers. Conclusions: These results show that combining meditation with an existing daily routine was a commonly utilized strategy for promoting persistent meditation app use during the COVID-19 pandemic for many subscribers. This finding supports existing evidence that pairing new behaviors with an existing routine is an effective method for establishing new health habits. Preregistration: This study is not pre-registered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1504-1521
Number of pages18
JournalMindfulness
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Keywords

  • App abandonment
  • Habit cues
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Mobile app
  • Survival analysis
  • mHealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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