Characteristics and usage patterns in a convenience sample of paid subscribers to calm meditation app: Cross-sectional survey

Jennifer Huberty, Ana Maria Vranceanu, Colleen Carney, Michael Breus, Michael Gordon, Megan Elizabeth Puzia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: Meditation has become increasingly popular due to its health benefits; however, barriers to delivering meditation programs in traditional group-based formats limit the accessibility of these benefits. Smartphone-based meditation may increase the availability of these programs to larger, more diverse audiences; however, research on subscriber characteristics and usage patterns in meditation mobile apps is lacking. Objective: This study aimed to describe the demographics, clinical characteristics, and usage patterns of a convenience sample of Calm subscribers and explore the relationship between self-reported app usage and changes in health, stress, and sleep. Methods: Participants were 12,151 paying Calm subscribers (response rate=12.08%, 12,151/100,594) who completed an anonymous Web-based survey with 11 quantitative questions related to user engagement, reasons for starting Calm, and changes after using the app. Demographic characteristics, chronic health diagnoses, and sleep difficulties were also assessed. Chi-square tests were used to examine differences in app usage. Logistic regression models were used to examine demographic and health characteristics that may predict changes in health, stress, and sleep. Results: Respondents were 18-96 years old (mean 48.57 [SD 13.79]), primarily female (79.94%, 8778/10,981), white (81.41%, 8959/11,005), and most reported a chronic health diagnosis (56.86%, 6289/11,061). Mental health diagnoses (41.13%, 4549/11,061) were more common than physical health diagnoses (32.19%, 3560/11,061). Most respondents (76.31%, 8684/11,360) reported difficulties falling or staying asleep. On average, respondents had been using Calm for 11.49 months (SD 10.49), and 60.03% (7281/12,129) used it 5 or more times per week. Meditations (used by 80.02%, 9497/11,841) and Sleep Stories (55.66%, 6591/11,841) were the most popular components. The frequency of using Calm was associated with incremental increases in the likelihood of noticing changes in mental health (χ2 2=136.8; P<.001), physical health (χ2 2=102.8; P<.001), stress (χ2 2=128.1; P<.001), and sleep (χ2 2=141.4; P<.001). Respondents who had used Calm longer were also more likely to notice changes in mental health (OR 1.06 [95% CI 1.05 to 1.06]), physical health (OR 1.01 [95% CI 1.01 to 1.02]), stress (OR 1.04 [95% CI 1.04 to 1.05]), and sleep (OR 1.004 [95% CI 1.00 to 1.01]). Subscribers with sleep difficulties used Calm more frequently (χ8 2=11.5; P=.003), were more likely to use Sleep Stories (χ1 2=1590.2; P<.001), and were more likely to notice changes in their physical health (χ1 2=49.2; P<.001) and sleep (χ1 2=2391.1; P<.001).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere15648
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Consumer behavior
  • Health
  • Mindfulness
  • Mobile health
  • Psychological stress
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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