Systematic review of ecological momentary assessment (EMA) studies of five public health-related behaviours: review protocol

Dominika Kwasnicka, Dimitra Kale, Verena Schneider, Jan Keller, Bernard Yeboah-Asiamah Asare, Daniel Powell, Felix Naughton, Gill A ten Hoor, Peter Verboon, Olga Perski

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Introduction: Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) involves repeated, real-time assessments of phenomena (eg, cognitions, emotions, behaviours) over a period of time in naturalistic settings. EMA is increasingly used to study both within-person and between-person processes. We will review EMA studies investigating key health behaviours and synthesise: (1) study characteristics (eg, frequency of assessments, adherence, incentives), (2) associations between psychological predictors and behaviours and (3) moderators of adherence to EMA protocols.

Methods and analysis: This review will focus on EMA studies conducted across five public health behaviours in adult, non-clinical populations: movement behaviour (including physical activity and sedentary behaviour), dietary behaviour, alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking and preventive sexual health behaviours. Studies need to have assessed at least one psychological or contextual predictor of these behaviours. Studies reporting exclusively on physiological outcomes (eg, cortisol) or those not conducted under free-living conditions will be excluded. We will search OVID MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO and Web of Science using terms relevant to EMA and the selected health behaviours. Reference lists of existing systematic reviews of EMA studies will be hand searched. Identified articles will be screened by two reviewers. This review is expected to provide a comprehensive summary of EMA studies assessing psychological or contextual predictors of five public health behaviours.

Ethics and dissemination: The results will be disseminated through peer-reviewed publications and presentations. Data from included studies will be made available to other researchers. No ethics are required.

PROSPERO registration number: CRD42020168314.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere046435
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2021


  • nutrition & dietetics
  • public health
  • social medicine
  • sports medicine
  • statistics & research methods

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