The market for smartwatches and fitness bands is growing, but how effective are today's wearable health devices? A study from Lancaster University, the University of the West of England, and Nottingham Trent says that the technologies are marketed under the premise that they will help improve general health and fitness, yet the majority of manufacturers provide no empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of their products.

Approximately one third of users stop wearing the devices after six months, and half after one year. Evidence for the effectiveness of the wearables is anecdotal, according to the researchers, and there is little scientific evidence as to how they improve health.

While consumer wearables could be more useful for patients with conditions like diabetes or cardiac problems, current solutions are still in the early stages of development.

“For chronic conditions, wearables could effortlessly provide detailed longitudinal data that monitors patients’ progress without the need to involve more sophisticated, uncomfortable and expensive alternatives," said Dr David Ellis of Lancaster University. "For instance, it is possible to identify the severity of depressive symptoms based on the number of conversations amount of physical activity and sleep duration using a wearable wristband and smartphone app.”

The use of pedometers is linked to an increase in physical activity and a decrease in blood pressure; the university team, however, says there is no evidence of long term change.

According to the study, devices need to be validated and standardized to ensure that wearable technology becomes an asset for healthcare in the 21st century.