Study participants who were depressed used their phones for an average of 68 minutes a day, compared to 17 minutes for non-depressed individuals.
Spending more time at home and in fewer locations was also linked to depression.
David Mohr, director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine says, “Typically, smartphone applications for mental health treatment are essentially feedback tools, requiring users to enter information.”
The team used 12 variables like GPS and phone usage data, and correlated algorithms with the participants’ PHQ-9 test results. They found that a number of them significantly corresponded with depression.
One of the most significant variables was actually how subjects spent time in different locations they were visiting.
It was very much related to depression, people with higher depressive symptoms seemed to spend most of the time in very few locations.
Researchers believe detection through smartphone sensor data could have multiple public health benefits.
Only 30 percent of people with depression are treated, and it takes an estimated eight years, on average.
Mohr said, for patients already in treatment, a smartphone tool could help providers reinforce positive behavior.
The tool could also serve to offer support for depression management.
He added “A lot of companies are using these kinds of data for marketing purposes,” but “We’re trying to use them to improve the quality of people’s lives.”
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