The National Institutes of Heath is spending more than $200,000 giving Fitbits to depressed alcoholic women.
The "low-cost" intervention is being led by researchers at Butler Hospital in Rhode Island, who claim women are more emotional and drink to "cope."
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"Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are the [third] leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. and are associated with significant economic burden and health-related negative consequences," according to the grant for the project. "While Women may be less likely to develop AUDs, they experience more significant negative health consequences of alcohol use than men. Due to stigma, shame, and child care issues; Women are less likely to receive specialty addiction treatment."
The researchers say female alcoholics tend to relapse because of their emotions, and are seeking to get them to exercise instead.
"Relapse rates are very high in both men and Women but significant gender differences emerge in the predictors of relapse," the grant said. "Women are more likely to relapse in unpleasant, negative emotional states and depressive symptoms and negative affect mediate the relationship between these stressors and drinking outcomes. More so than men, Women with AUDs report drinking to cope with negative emotions."
Providing Fitbits to the women will enable them to use the "in the moment" method to "cope with negative emotional states and alcohol craving during early recovery," the grant said. The project will recruit roughly 50 women to wear Fitbits for 12 weeks, who will also receive "weekly supportive messages delivered by email."
The two-year project has cost taxpayers $204,784 so far.
Fitbits cost between $79.95 and $229.25, with the common Fitbit Charge going for $109.95. Purchasing Fitbit Charges for 50 test subjects would cost $5,497.50.
The study is being led by Ana M. Abrantes, an associate professor of psychiatry at Brown University. Abrantes has several active projects being financed by the NIH.
One similar study that began last month is creating a smart phone app aimed at getting drunks to exercise more. The app "Fit & Sober" has cost $254,704, and will be tested on 160 alcoholics to see if they get in shape and drink less.
Another study trying to get depressed smokers to do aerobics has received $1,678,533.
The Republican-controlled Congress is set to give the NIH a $2 billion funding increase, raising the agencies budget over $3 billion than what President Barack Obama asked for in his budget request this year.