Smartphones can detect depression

ISLAMABAD: Smartphone may tell if the person is depressed by tracking the number of minutes they spend using the device and their daily geographical locations, according to a new study.


Researchers from the Northwestern University found that the more time you spend using your phone, the more likely you are to be depressed, BBC health reported.

The average daily usage for depressed individuals was about 68 minutes, while for non-depressed individuals it was about 17 minutes.

Spending most of the time at home and most of the time in fewer locations – as measured by Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking – also are linked to depression.

Having a less regular day-to-day schedule, leaving your house and going to work at different times each day, for example, also is linked to depression.

Researchers analyzed the GPS locations and phone usage for 28 individuals (20 females and eight males, average age of 29) over two weeks. The sensor tracked GPS locations every five minutes.

Based on the phone sensor data, Northwestern scientists could identify people with depressive symptoms with 87 per cent accuracy.

“The significance of this is we can detect if a person has depressive symptoms and the severity of those symptoms without asking them any questions,” said researchers.

The smartphone data was more reliable in detecting depression than daily questions participants answered about how sad they were feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. The data showing depressed people tended not to go many places reflects the loss of motivation seen in depression.

When people are depressed, they tend to withdraw and don’t have the motivation or energy to go out and do things.

While the phone usage data did not identify how people were using their phones, researchers suspect people who spent the most time on them were surfing the web or playing games, rather than talking to friends. “People are likely, when on their phones, to avoid thinking about things that are troubling, painful feelings or difficult relationships. It’s an avoidance behavior we see in depression,” they said.