The smartphone, or the 21th century man’s best friend, can now tell you whether you are depressed, and you won’t need an app for that, a new study suggests.
A group of scientists from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found some interesting patterns in the data smartphone sensors can casually collect which can be used as diagnosis tools for depression.
The research team asked 28 volunteers to allow them to collect some data on phone usage and geographical location over the course of two weeks. The data was gathered with help from mobile phone sensors and an app called “Purple Robot.”
Volunteers were also asked to fill in some questionnaires on their overall mental health and general mood. The results showed that half of participants showed signs of mild to severe depression.
Surprisingly, the data collected by their smarphones pinpointed the same thing with an 87 percent level of accuracy. Nevertheless, study authors acknowledged that the sample size was too small to be statistically relevant, but the findings may be a good starting point for further research.
A paper on the findings was published July 15 in the Journal of Medical Research.
Sohrob Saeb, a scientist involved in the research project, said that if the findings are accurate the newly found method of spotting depression on time may help patients and doctors alike with a timely treatment.
Saeb explained that his team found at least three factors that indicate depressive symptoms. One of them is how often you change locations. If you are depressed you tend to spend more time at home, or in a single place.
Also, how regular your schedule is may indicate your depressive mood, scientists noted. For instance, if you leave home for work or school at the exact time every day you are less likely to be depressed.
Moreover, the time you spend on phone may be a precious indicator to whether you are affected by depression or not. Researchers found that a healthy person spends on average 17 minutes per day to talk on the phone. But depressed patients spend on average 68 minutes per day.
And all those indicators are provided by your smartphone’s sensors, researchers noted. The team currently hopes that the findings may make it easier for people to track their depressive symptoms without the need of typing in details on their symptoms or answer some questions within an app.
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