A study conducted by Northwest Medicine says that smartphones can be used to identify depression. The researchers involved in the study says that if one person spends too much time on their phone and do not go out they might be depressed.
For the study the researchers first of all required the 28 participants enrolled in the research (20 women and eight men) to fill in a survey which is commonly used for identifying depression symptoms. Half of the participants showed signs of mild and severe depression, whereas the other half did not show any signs of depression.
The next step of the research was to monitor the participants’ phone sensors for a period of two weeks to check whether depression scores will be the same after the comparison with the survey. The researchers tracked app usage, messaging and the location of the participants throughout the day. Through a daily pop up message the participants were asked to rate their feelings of sadness on a scale from one to ten.
The findings of the study indicate that those who were not depressed spent 17 minutes on their phone every day on average, whereas depressed people spent an average of 68 minutes every day on their phone. When researchers compared this data with the survey scored they observed that the accuracy with which the sensor detected depression was 87 percent accurate.
The GPS tracker associated depression with people who had the tendency to spend most of the time in one place which was usually their home. Also it seems that people who had an irregular schedule were more likely to be depressed.
Past research has also suggested that there is a link between excessive phone use and depression, sleep issues and stress. However according to the lead author of the study, Dr. Sohrob Saeb from the Feinberg School of Medicine, more research needs to be done in order to better understand this difference.
David Mohr from Northwestern University said that this study is significant because smartphones can be used to identify depression and there is no need to ask any questions. He noted:
“We now have an objective measure of behaviour related to depression. And we’re detecting it passively. Phones can provide data unobtrusively and with no effort on the part of the user.”
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