Mobile mindfulness meditation apps are an accessible resource for managing mental health during stressful life events. However, long-term stressors may warrant more persistent engagement with mindfulness meditation over time. The purpose of this study was to investigate the dynamic relationships between COVID-19-related worry, mindfulness meditation app use, mindfulness meditation habit strength, and mental health over the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Self-report and app usage data were collected from a sample of mindfulness meditation app users at six time points between April 2020 and May 2021. Poisson regression models were used to analyze associations between COVID-19-related worry, multiple measures of mindfulness meditation app use, self-reported mindfulness meditation habit strength, and three mental health outcomes: anxiety, stress, and depression.
COVID-19-related worry was associated with increased mindfulness meditation app use and higher rates of anxiety, stress, and depression (p < 0.001). Increases in mindfulness meditation app habit strength were associated with greater mindfulness meditation app use (p < 0.001). Increases in mindfulness meditation app habit strength were linked to more app use and, when other variables were taken into account, lower rates of anxiety, stress, and depression (p < 0.01).
These findings underline the potential of regular use of mindfulness meditation apps in maintaining mental health during ongoing stressors like the COVID-19 pandemic. Future research should investigate the causal relationship between mindfulness meditation app habits and mental health, as well as identify strategies to promote strong mindfulness meditation app habits that may protect mental health when exposed to prolonged and pervasive stressors.
This study is not preregistered.