Can your Smartphone’s Sensors Reveal if you’re depressed?

The use of Smartphones and Its Sensors to Monitor our Physical Health is a reality since the arrival of the weareables. They monitor our heart-beat rate, the distance we travel daily, they monitored the amount and quality of sleep as well as what we eat. But smartphones have the capacity for more. Are they able also get to diagnose our mental health?

Firstly, may seem crazy, but the truth is that there are few devices in our lives with whom we interact more with our phone. We take them with us wherever we go, we use it to communicate, we use it to distract us, we use them to keep our confidential information, do we?. In a second thought virtually everything we need, is inside our trusty phone in which we have invested more than 200$.

You could say that in the twenty-first century Smartphone has become our main confident, on that we trust those secrets that we do not trust anyone else. And it is precisely that fact which makes it a perfect for diagnosing diseases like depression without asking any single question to the patient or candidate.

Study links depression behaviors through an app:

Recently, a small study conducted by the IMG_20150731_145522Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago smartphone showed the possibilities in this field. Despite the study’s limitations, the results were really promising.

Researchers led by Dr. David Mohr conducted the study with 40 participants aged between 19 and 58 years old and made them a standard questionnaire in the diagnosis of depression. This test was determined that half of the participants did not suffer any symptoms of depression while the other half showed signs ranging from mild to severe.

Study links depression behaviors through an app

Then the smartphone use was analyzed for two weeks through an Android app called Purple Robot, analyzing the time patients used their phone and using GPS tracking terminal. Of the participants, 28 were chosen to analyze the data, twelve of them had to be excluded for various reasons.

The result? The analysis of the use of the smartphone fitted with the questionnaire with 87% accuracy. Users who suffered from depression used their terminal three times more than those without. Also, those who spent all day in one location were more likely to be depressed than those who moved more. In addition, the study also found a link between depression and erratic schedules as those with a fixed schedule and a stronger routine had less depressive IMG_20150731_070713tendencies. In addition, the researchers asked participants to rate their level of daily sadness of 1 to 10 in a notification.

However, the study also has important holes starting from small scale thereof. In sum, neither the use made of the phone was broken and if this is used to communicate with other people, either by text messages or through calls as to avoid contact with others is often a symptom of depression.

It was not taken into account if users were using the phone for work or the age of these, although young people tend to use the smartphone much more than those over 45. However, this does not mean that the study is invalid, only needs to be investigated further, and the team is now recruiting 120 new participants for further study.

The smartphone can facilitate early diagnosis


In the absence of more conclusive studies, evidence of relationship between the use of the smartphone are promising. And it has a certain logic, because those who suffer from depression, explains dr. David Mohr, have to find ways to distract themselves from their feelings, and the phone is often the first thing at hand.

But to make an analysis of the use that is given to the phone, not only the time it is used, because one could use the phone a lot to make plans with friends or because it matches in Tinder as if this was a brothel, and it would hardly be a symptom of depression. However if it is used only to browse or play without communication with other people, it could be.

That also involves a second problem, and how much would be willing to allow the type of use that is made from your phone to a disease that affected the same in many cases can deny is diagnosed is analyzed, and it would be an important in the field of privacy concession.

Patients with depressive tendencies can be very reluctant to talk about their feelings sometimes, so if possible the detection of the disease through this smartphone could be identified in its early stages, and act preventively before the problem gets older. And all without making any single question to the patient.

Many Thanks for your attention and for your valuable time!


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