Your Smartphone Can Tell If You’re Depressed
Do you spend more than an hour a day on your smartphone?
If so, you may be depressed.
The more time you spend using your phone, the more likely you are depressed. The average daily usage for depressed individuals was about 68 minutes, while for non-depressed individuals it was about 17 minutes.
Researchers at Northwestern University medical school used smartphone sensor data to track the number of minutes people use their phones and their daily locations.
The study found that spending most of your time at home and most of your time in fewer locations — as measured by GPS tracking — also are linked to depression. And, 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.
Based on the phone sensor data, Northwestern scientists could identify people with depressive symptoms with 87 percent 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 senior author David Mohr, a clinical psychologist and professor of preventive medicine.
“We now have an objective measure of behavior related to depression. And we’re detecting it passively. Phones can provide data unobtrusively and with no effort on the part of the user.”
The research could ultimately lead to monitoring people at risk of depression and enabling health care providers to intervene more quickly.
The study was published this week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
The smart phone 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,” said Mohr. “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 didn’t identify how people were using their phones, Mohr suspects that people who spent the most time on them were surfing the web or playing games, rather than talking to friends.