Phones reveal depression

Are you able to mask your mood? When you are feeling low can you put on a brave face and appear as if all is well and light in your world? Well, you might be able to deceive some people but you couldn’t fool your best friend and these days for many people their best friend is their phone. That may, or may not, be the logic that led researchers in a new study to find that your phone knows when you are depressed.

The study involved men and women with an average age of 29 who had their phone usage tracked over a period of two weeks. They also had a GPS tracker which tracked their location every 5 minutes during that time. In addition the subjects completed a questionnaire that is widely used to measure depression. The aim was to see if phone usage correlated to depression.

The results showed that 50 per cent of subjects showed no depression at all while 50 per cent showed symptoms ranging from mild to severe depression. It also emerged that depressed people sent an average 68 minutes per day using their phone while non-depressed people spent only 17 minutes. They also found that depressed people were less likely to move about than non-depressed people.

So precisely was phone usage linked to depression that the researchers found they could predict depression from phone usage with an 87 per cent accuracy. In fact, the phone data was more reliable than asking people how they felt on any given day on a scale of 1 to 10. This prompted the researchers to say that phone use could be a useful way of detecting depression without having to ask a person any questions. While they did not measure what the subjects were doing on their phones they theorise that people use their phones to avoid thinking about things that are painful or troubling.

It seems you might be able to fool some of the people, some of the time, but you can never fool your phone.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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