Depressed people spend far more time on their smartphones and spend most of their time at home or at fewer locations than people who aren’t depressed, they found. If you’re a normal, well-adjusted person, you use your phone about 17 minutes a day.
Keeping track of a person’s movements through Global Positioning System, the researchers were able to measure factors such as longer time periods spent in certain locations and irregular daily schedules, which pointed to a tendency to be depressed. They discovered that by correlating the amount of time spent interacting with the phone alongside Global Positioning System data, they could determine which were depressed with an 87% accuracy. But Mohr cited these symptoms as proof: “The data showing depressed people tended not to go many places reflects the loss of motivation seen in depression”. Such activities may offer a way to avoid thinking about painful feelings or hard relationships, Mohr said. With the discovery of the link between cellphone usage and depression, behavioral experts can now easily detect those who do not feel well about their current situation.
Saeb analyzed the Global Positioning System locations and phone usage for 28 individuals-20 women and eight men, with an average age of 29-over two weeks. So, automatically gathered Global Positioning System location info and data on the length of their phone calls on a particular day may just do the trick.
The research could lead to monitoring people at risk of depression using their smartphones so healthcare providers could intervene. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others, and the convenience of a smartphone means they may have little reason to leave the house.
They also completed a standardised questionnaire about symptoms used to diagnose depression such as sadness, loss of pleasure, hopelessness, disturbances in sleep and appetite, and difficulty concentrating.
Sohrob Saeb, a scientist involved in the research project, said that if the findings are accurate the newly found method of spotting depression on time may help patients and doctors alike with a timely treatment.
The analysis showed that half of the participants did not show signs of depression while the other half had mild to severe depression.
Professor Mohr suspects that people who spent the most time on them were surfing the web or playing games, rather than talking to friends.
“There are so many sensors available in smartphones; harnessing them could passively detect the state we’re interested in,”
. These behaviors can speak volumes about a person’s mental health, researchers said. A larger study with participants who have confirmed clinical depression will need to be done to see if the same results are achieved before drawing any firm conclusions, researchers said.