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A tailored dietary app for young adults with anxiety

In the IDA elective course "Advanced Applications: Individual Differences, Personality, and Health", students write a grant proposal on a topic to improve health in individuals with chronic diseases by promoting lifestyle change. Congratulations to Guðrún Rut Guðmundsdóttir for winning (one of) the best grant proposal award. 

Proposal Summary

Anxiety and poor nutrition are common among young adults, increasing their risk for disease and disability. Despite the strong reciprocal link between the two, interventions are lacking that simultaneously target anxiety and diet. We aim to develop an app to promote healthy and anxiety-reducing dietary habits and test it in a randomised control-trial.

A large proportion of today’s young adults suffer considerable stress and anxiety (around 20-40%, depending on measure and country). This puts them at an increased risk of disease and disability, partly because of health-compromising behaviours such as poor diet and disordered eating. In this regard, tailored interventions are needed that provide the necessary scaffolding while minimising the risk of unwanted rebound effects and emphasising eating-related habits that have been shown to reduce anxiety. There is a need and demand for such interventions as many young adults already use or are interested in commercial dietary programs.

This PhD project aims to develop and test an intervention that suits and appeals to young adults with anxiety. Young adults express interest in using digital platforms to access mental health services and life-style interventions20, and mobile-based dietary interventions have shown to be effective. Therefore, we will develop a mobile app (MindMeals) built on evidence-based dietary recommendations and behaviour change techniques aligning with the needs and motivations of this group.

The intervention could potentially both be used as a stand-alone public health intervention or as a complimentary treatment for anxiety upon further testing. Still today, dietary counselling is rarely a part of psychological treatment15 despite the clear association between diet and mental health. This project would contribute valuable insight on this front and help guide further intervention development tailored to individuals with mental health issues. Additionally, it could also help to clarify the complex link between anxiety and diet.

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