COVID-19: Using data to design Just In Time Adaptive Interventions

The COVID-19 pandemic has created once-in-a-century economic conditions, which present serious challenges to the mental and physical health and wellbeing of Australian boys and men.

Flinders researchers will use COVID-19 pandemic data on the mental and physical health of Australian men to design Just in Time Adaptive Interventions (JITAI).

Chief Investigator Professor Robert Adams said the pandemic had impacted people differently.

“Although everyone has been affected by the pandemic in some way, our research has found that the experience has been different depending on your circumstances,” Prof Adams said.

“For many, financial stresses, separation from loved ones, social isolation and uncertainty about the future have taken a huge toll. For others, who have kept their jobs and been able to easily work from home, there have been positive benefits. But even there, for example, looking after children at home and working at the same time has been very hard for many.

“The effect on physical and mental health has also been varied and personal, and the responses of the health system also need to adapt to the differences in people’s experiences.”

Delivered via mobile phone, JITAI is an intervention designed to provide the right type and amount of support, at the right time, by adapting to an individual’s emotional, social, physical, and contextual state.

Prof Adams’ research will build upon existing men’s health platforms, the Florey Adelaide Male Ageing Study (FAMAS) and the North West Adelaide Health Study (NWAHS), to develop a detailed understanding of the short and medium-term economic drivers of mental and physical health.

The modelling will then be used as the basis for an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) pilot trial using an established, smartphone-based platform (Intui).

EMA allows the repeated collection and pushing of real-time, real-world data and micro-interventions, and is increasingly used as the basis of JITAI in reactive processes, such as psychological distress.

“The advantage of the JITAI approach is that it can deliver messages and advice that are personalised to the person’s individual circumstances and an appropriate time when it is most useful,” Prof Adams said.

“JITAI moves the field from general health and wellbeing information to content specific to the person and their particular stage of life.

“We think this can really help with coping with physical and mental health challenges we face.”

Prof Adams will examine the effectiveness of this intervention in maintaining mental and physical health among male-predominant groups and industries, and create an accessible resource to evaluate the health impact of future adverse life events.

This is one of nine projects being undertaken by researchers in the new Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing at Flinders University. The Centre’s research is supported through funding from the Masonic Charities Trust and Flinders Foundation. 

The Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing is an SA and NT research alliance involving Flinders University and Flinders Foundation, Masonic Charities Trust, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Menzies School of Health Research and the University of Adelaide.


Research category: Men and Boys’ Mental Health 

Project title: Using COVID-19 pandemic data on mental and physical health in Australian men to design Just In Time Adaptive Interventions  

Chief and Associate Investigators: Prof Robert Adams (Flinders University) (pictured), Dr Sarah Appleton (Flinders University), Prof Malcolm Battersby (Flinders University), Prof Tarun Bastiampillai (Flinders University), A/Prof Niranjan Bidargaddi (Flinders University), Dr Rebecca Foley (Flinders University), A/Prof Billingsley Kaambwa (Flinders University), Prof Eva Kemps (Flinders University), Prof Gary Wittert (University of Adelaide), Dr. Sean Martin (University of Adelaide), Prof Susan Murphy (Harvard University 

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