Chatbots May Be Effective Tool for Improving Lifestyle Habits, Study Finds


New research indicates that chatbots can help significantly improve sleep quality, diet, and physical activity levels.

Published in Natural Digital Medicine, the research was conducted by scientists from the University of South Australia (UniSA) in Adelaide, Australia. Aiming to understand the effect of chatbots on behavioral change, the investigators performed a meta-analysis and systematic review of a total of 19 trials on the use of chatbots to promote lifestyle interventions.

The trials involved in the analysis used a variety of chatbots, including text-based chatbots and voice-based artificial intelligence (AI). Researchers observed how chatbots influenced behavioral change around physical activity, diet, sleep duration, and sleep quality.

After analysis, the data suggested that through personalized support, chatbots helped increase daily steps, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, and improve sleep. The study showed that using chatbots was associated with 735 extra steps per day, one more serving of fruits and vegetables, and an additional 45 minutes of sleep per night. Surprisingly, the analysis also suggested that chatbots were effective across all ages, not just the younger, more tech-savvy generations.

"Chatbots offer personalized and interactive lifestyle support that may be more engaging and meaningful to users than other tech-based lifestyle tools." Said Carol Maher, PhD, population and digital health professor at UniSA. "They adapt to individual user's needs, tailoring their advice based on the user's responses, habits, and preferences. The level of personalization may lead to more effective motivation and advice."

According to Maher, these results highlight the future possibilities of AI in healthcare. "This field of research is young, and there is potential for chatbots to give inappropriate advice. For now, using chatbots to supplement human coaching could be the best solution, offering the best of both worlds--retaining the unique value of a human coach, combined with round-the-clock support from a chatbot,” she said. "While more research is needed, this study suggests that chatbots could help address certain modifiable factors in lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, alleviating pressure on our health system."