JMIR Formative Research
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Background: Undergraduate studies are challenging, and mental health issues can frequently occur in undergraduate students,straining campus resources that are already in demand for somatic problems. Cost-effective measures with ubiquitous devices,such as smartphones, offer the potential to deliver targeted interventions to monitor and affect lifestyle, which may result inimprovements to student mental health. However, the avenues by which this can be done are not particularly well understood,especially in the Canadian context.Objective: The aim of this study is to deploy an initial version of the Smart Healthy Campus app at Western University, Canada,and to analyze corresponding data for associations between psychosocial factors (measured by a questionnaire) and behaviorsassociated with lifestyle (measured by smartphone sensors).Methods: This preliminary study was conducted as an observational app-based ecological momentary assessment. Undergraduatestudents were recruited over email, and sampling using a custom 7-item questionnaire occurred on a weekly basis.Results: First, the 7-item Smart Healthy Campus questionnaire, derived from fully validated questionnaires-such as the BriefResilience Scale; General Anxiety Disorder-7; and Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale-21-was shown to significantly correlatewith the mental health domains of these validated questionnaires, illustrating that it is a viable tool for a momentary assessmentof an overview of undergraduate mental health. Second, data collected through the app were analyzed. There were 312 weeklyresponses and 813 sensor samples from 139 participants from March 2019 to March 2020; data collection concluded whenCOVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Demographic information was not collected in this preliminary study because of technicallimitations. Approximately 69.8% (97/139) of participants only completed one survey, possibly because of the absence of anyincentive. Given the limited amount of data, analysis was not conducted with respect to time, so all data were analyzed as a singlecollection. On the basis of mean rank, students showing more positive mental health through higher questionnaire scores tendedto spend more time completing questionnaires, showed more signs of physical activity based on pedometers, and had their devicesrunning less and plugged in charging less when sampled. In addition, based on mean rank, students on campus tended to reportmore positive mental health through higher questionnaire scores compared with those who were sampled off campus. Some datafrom students found in or near residences were also briefly examined.Conclusions: Given these limited data, participants tended to report a more positive overview of mental health when on campusand when showing signs of higher levels of physical activity. These early findings suggest that device sensors related to physical activity and location are useful for monitoring undergraduate students and designing interventions. However, much more sensordata are needed going forward, especially given the sweeping changes in undergraduate studies due to COVID-19.