Study: Mobile Application Can Accurately Detect Signs of Depression

July 21, 2015 in News

A smartphone application can help detect signs of depression and monitor at-risk populations by analyzing various data, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Healthcare IT News reports.

Study Details

For the study, researchers from Northwestern University’s department of preventive medicine analyzed the effectiveness of a mobile health app called Purple Robot. The app, which was developed by the researchers, monitors an individual’s phone use and tracks the user’s daily geographic locations (McCann, Healthcare IT News, 7/16).

To begin the study, researchers gave 40 participants a self-reported depression survey. They then examined data from the phones of 28 of the individuals who had sufficient data to review (Feller, United Press International, 7/16).

Study Findings

The study found that the mobile app’s detection of depression was more accurate than questions about participants’ mood (Healthcare IT News 7/16).

Specifically, the app predicted depression with 87% accuracy (United Press International, 7/16).

According to the study, symptoms of depression correlated with:

  • Infrequent travel and more time spent at home (Healthcare IT News 7/16); and
  • More phone use (United Press International, 7/16).

David Mohr, director of the university’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at the Feinberg School of Medicine, in a statement said that the app requires “no effort on the part of the user,” the significance of which “is we can detect if a person has depressive symptoms and the severity of those symptoms without asking them any questions” (Healthcare IT News 7/16).

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