Health related apps have been on the rise in recent years as an increasing number of smartphone users are concerned with what they put in their bodies and what’s going on with their health. But most of them have been aimed at counting calories, counting drinks, keeping track of blood pressure, and none of them have targeted mental health. Until now.
Researchers at the Northwestern University have developed a smartphone app that can say whether or not an individual is depressed based on the amount of time that they spend using their phone as well by looking at GPS data in order to asses how many places the individual visits on a daily basis.
David Mohr, senior author and director for the Behavioral Intervention Technologies department of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, and his colleagues examined 18 subjects for this study. He included both men and women, with the ranging from 19 to 58.
The research team installed an app on the smartphones of participants and used it to track them over the course of two (2) weeks. However, before the app started collecting information, the subjects had to answer standard questionnaire that are used by professionals to measure depression.
The results revealed that the more time a subject spent using their phone, the bigger their change of being diagnosed with depression was. Depressed subjects spent somewhere around 68 minutes using their device each day, while healthy subjects spent somewhere around 17 minutes using their device each day.
On top of this, users with GPS data that showed they spent most of the time at home also had a good chance of being diagnosed with depression. Another finding was that subjects who changed their schedule from day to day (for instance heading towards the office at a different time each day) were also likely battling depression.
Mohr gave a statement saying that the results make sense from a clinical point of view. When people are depressed they don’t feel like engaging in social activities and that usually withdraw from others.
One explanation is that these people don’t use their phones to communicate, but rather to play on apps in an attempt to distract themselves from their emotional pain.
The authors admitted that further research is needed as the sample of subjects was a very small one.
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