Stress Wearables: A study on parenting and stress reduction

Are you a healthcare worker or a co-parent to one? Earn up to $200 and help us understand the unique stressors you face.

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Parents working in the healthcare system and their partners have been one of the groups particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota is looking to understand how new mobile digital technologies have the potential to help families measure and manage this stress.

In this study, we are looking for a group of 100 parents to wear wrist-based wearable devices (like a fitness tracker or smart watch) to track their real-time stress levels. This valuable data helps shed light on the unique stressors that families with a parent in this high-stress environment face, and how these emerging technologies may help.

For 30 days, participants will:

  • Wear a wrist-based device that tracks heart-rate variability
  • Respond to a brief daily survey that will take just a few minutes
  • Participate in periodic activities to manage stress and increase wellbeing

Participants will receive up to $200 for participating in this important work, which we believe is a significant early step in exciting new ways to improve children’s and families’ mental health and well-being.

Enrollment criteria

  1. You work in a healthcare system where you have contact with patients (examples of such roles include: nursing, receptionist, housekeeping, doctors), AND have exposure to COVID-19
    • OR, you are co-parenting with a healthcare worker who fits this description. We consider co-parenting to include any individual that shares a home with someone with the above description (examples of such roles include: spouse, partner, and generational parenting)
  2. You have at least one child age 4-13 years old
  3. You are able to wear a wrist-based fitness tracking device for 30 days


  • Earn up to $200
  • Requires just a few moments of your day, for 30 days
  • No in-person contact required
  • Help us understand how wearable devices can help parents manage stress

About the study

Why healthcare workers?

  • Healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic experience more depressive, anxiety, insomnia, and distress symptoms than non-frontline healthcare workers (Lai et al., 2020).
  • Healthcare workers are faced with extreme pressures and mental health challenges because of COVID-19 (Greenberg, Docherty, Gnanapragasam, & Wessely, 2020).
  • Risk of infection, shortages of personal protective equipment, and loss of life impact the emotional well-being of healthcare workers (Zaka et al., 2020).

Why Mindfulness?

  • Mindfulness exercises are thought to improve physical and mental health, especially for individuals feeling higher levels of stress (Cresswell & Lindsay, 2014).
  • Mindfulness exercises can reduce stress and distress in healthcare workers (Shapiro, Astin, Bishop, & Cordova, 2005), and improve coping skills (Burton, Burgess, Dean, Koutsopoulou, & Hugh‐Jones, 2017; Zeller & Levin, 2013).

What is heart rate variability (HRV)?

  • HRV measures the amount of time that passes between each heartbeat.
  • HRV is associated with the part of the brain involved in assessing threat and safety (Thayer et al., 2012). HRV values decrease when the body is experiencing stress, indicating that something may be burdening the mind and the body.
  • This study uses a Fossil smart watch to measure HRV as an indicator of momentary stress.

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IRB information

Examining the Utility and Feasibility of Mobile Technology in Prevention Interventions to Promote Child and Family Mental Health: A Demonstration and Feasibility Project

Study number: STUDY00010418