Research Alert

Background: Research into mobile health (mHealth) technologies on weight loss, physical activity, and sedentary behavior has increased substantially over the last decade; however, no research has been published showing the research trend in this field.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to provide a dynamic and longitudinal bibliometric analysis of recent trends of mHealth research for weight loss, physical activity, and sedentary behavior.

Methods: A comprehensive search was conducted through Web of Science to retrieve all existing relevant documents published in English between January 1, 2010, and November 1, 2021. We developed appropriate research questions; based on the proven bibliometric approaches, a search strategy was formulated to screen the title for eligibility. Finally, we conducted bibliometric analyses to explore the growth rate of publications; publication patterns; and the most productive authors, institutions, and countries, and visualized the trends in the field using a keyword co-occurrence network.

Results: The initial search identified 8739 articles, of which 1035 were included in the analyses. Our findings show an exponential growth trend in the number of annual publications of mHealth technology research in these fields. JMIR mHealth and uHealth (n=214, 20.67%), Journal of Medical Internet Research (n=71, 6.86%), and BMC Public Health (n=36, 3.47%) were the top 3 journals, publishing higher numbers of articles. The United States remained the leading contributor in these areas (n=405, 39.13%), followed by Australia (n=154, 14.87%) and England (n=125, 12.07%). Among the universities, the University of Sydney (n=36, 3.47%) contributed the most mHealth technology research in these areas; however, Deakin University (n=25, 2.41%) and the National University of Singapore (n=23, 2.22%) were in the second and third positions, respectively.

Conclusions: Although the number of papers published on mobile technologies for weight loss, physical activity, and sedentary behavior was initially low, there has been an overall increase in these areas in recent years. The findings of the study indicate that mobile apps and technologies have substantial potential to reduce weight, increase physical activity, and change sedentary behavior. Indeed, this study provides a useful overview of the publication trends and valuable guidance on future research directions and perspectives in this rapidly developing field.

Journal Link: Journal of Medical Internet Research

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Journal of Medical Internet Research