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Time Series Visualizations of Mobile Phone-Based Daily Diary Reports of Stress, Physical Activity, and Diet Quality in Mostly Ethnic Minority Mothers: Feasibility Study


BACKGROUND:Health behavior patterns reported through daily diary data are important to understand and intervene upon at the individual level in N-of-1 trials and related study designs. There is often interest in relationships between multiple outcomes, such as stress and health behavior. However, analyses often utilize regressions that evaluate aggregate effects across individuals, and standard analyses target single outcomes. OBJECTIVE:This paper aims to illustrate how individuals' daily reports of stress and health behavior (time series) can be explored using visualization tools. METHODS:Secondary analysis was conducted on 6 months of daily diary reports of stress and health behavior (physical activity and diet quality) from mostly ethnic minority mothers who pilot-tested a self-monitoring mobile health app. Time series with minimal missing data from 14 of the 44 mothers were analyzed. Correlations between stress and health behavior within each time series were reported as a preliminary step. Stress and health behavior time series patterns were visualized by plotting moving averages and time points where mean shifts in the data occurred (changepoints). RESULTS:Median correlation was small and negative for associations of stress with physical activity (r=-.14) and diet quality (r=-.08). Moving averages and changepoints for stress and health behavior were aligned for some participants but not for others. A third subset of participants exhibited little variation in stress and health behavior reports. CONCLUSIONS:Median correlations in this study corroborate prior findings. In addition, time series visualizations highlighted variations in stress and health behavior across individuals and time points, which are difficult to capture through correlations and regression-based summary measures.

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