Are electronic diaries useful for symptoms research? A systematic review.
Burton C., Weller D., Sharpe M.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to evaluate electronic diaries as a tool for investigating associations between physical symptoms and psychological variables. METHODS: A qualitative systematic review of electronic diary studies in pain and symptoms research was performed. RESULTS: Studies of electronic diary use report good acceptability and accuracy of data recording. A descriptive classification of the findings of electronic diary studies yielded five categories: experience, recording data when symptoms were present; interaction, testing the relationship between variables at different levels; sequential, observing associations at different time lags; process, recording possible mediating constructs such as catastrophization and self-efficacy; and intervention, recording during treatment to identify trends. Most data from diary studies suggest relatively weak associations between variables. CONCLUSION: Electronic diaries are a potentially valuable tool for psychosomatic research. We suggest further possibilities for their use.