Smartphones and Depression – the Story Continues

Moodsurfing has reported on several studies and programs in the past that attempt to use smartphone data to improve mental health.  Now, an AP report from early January updates some of this research.

Smartphone users generate a huge amount of data, which, if correctly analyzed, could provide life saving information about early onset of depression, warning signs for a manic episode, and suicide prevention.

Clues to a person’s psychological condition can be provided by such variables as typing speed, voice tone, word choice, even location, and if the data can be utilized properly, these signs could alert care givers to a need for follow-up.  Dr. Alex Leow, an app developer and associate professor of psychiatry and bioengineering at the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus, said in an interview with AP “We are tracking the equivalent of a heartbeat for the human brain.”

With anxiety and depression diagnoses increasing at an alarming rate, and suicide now being the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 34, smartphone use is seen as both a possible cause of problems as well as an important tool for health care.

The AP report includes some apps that Moodsurfing has reported on in the past, including a study at the University of Illinois, and some private enterprise attempts to provide help through apps.  The article also mentions two other studies, one at Stanford University, and one at UCLA, an attempt to help new students on campus who may be struggling with depression.  We will continue to follow these developments and report on results as they become available.