Can your cell phone tell if you’re depressed?
By tracking a person’s location and the amount of time he or she spends using the device daily, researchers from Northwestern University showed that a smartphone is able to identify if the user is depressed by the amount of time spent on the phone and the length of time spent at home.
For non-depressed people, the average time spent using a smartphone daily was around 17 minutes, but for depressed individuals it was more than three-and-a-half times that, or 68 minutes.
GPS tracking allows smartphones to keep tabs on daily schedules, including a person’s most frequently visited places. The smartphone sensors allowed researchers to identify individuals at risk for depression with 87 percent accuracy.
Maria Battaglia, care manager at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., says the findings are interesting, but not conclusive.
“It may be too early to attribute depression to the hours spent on smart phones as they have become a necessity for work and home life,” she says.
While more work may need to be done, the research has potential for helping health care providers, as the devices could become helpful tools in detecting this serious condition among patients earlier, study leaders noted. It would allow physicians to step in when the risk of depression presents itself in both mild and severe cases.
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