The NetHealth Project

Project Objectives

Social networks are big news these days. For all the excitement about social networks  there are still many unanswered questions about how social networks form and evolve and how behaviors, tastes and attitudes spread through networks. This study focuses on health related behaviors, in particular sleep habits (SH) and physical activity (PA) patterns, though we will also look at other behaviors and attitudes. We are especially interested in seeing whether a person’s network position such as how many friends they have is related to SH and PA, and whether changes in SH and PA are related to association with people with different SH and PA levels.

To conduct this study we need to know about (1) people’s social ties, that is with whom persons communicate and interact and (2) their sleep and activity patterns. To obtain the social tie information, first year students enrolled in the study  install a monitoring application on their smartphones and periodically download text message logs. The monitoring application and logs allow us to capture background information on communication events (text messages, voice calls, emails, Facebook posts) and the proximity between two smartphones. We do not collect information on the content of telephone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook posts or other forms of communication. We collect information on who people communicate with, when and how in order to map people’s social networks and their evolution.We obtain sleep and activity data by providing students with a Fitbit Charge HR, a state-of-the-art activity and sleep tracker that collects information on steps, calories burned, activity levels, heart rate, and beginning and ending times of sleep periods.

In addition surveys are conducted every 3-4 months to ascertain the views of participants on a wide range of subjects, their activities, and who they have interacted with on a regular basis.

There are three tiers of student participants.  400 Tier 1 students were recruited in the Summer of 2015.  An additional 100 Tier 2 students were referred by Tier 1 students and enrolled in the the Fall of 2015.  FAn additional 400 Tier 3 students are currently being recruited.  Only Tier 1 and 2 participants receive free Fitbits.


Who we are

The study is being conducted by a research team of Notre Dame professors in Sociology, Psychology, and Computer Science affiliated with two research centers at Notre Dame, the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications (iCeNSA) and the Wireless Institute. The research work is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute with the National Institutes of Health.

More information on the members of our research team can be found under Contact Us.

Who to contact

If you have any questions regarding the study, please email us at nethealth@nd.edu or give us a call at (574)631-7095.