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In Stress and Health

Wearable Devices / Mobile Apps and Your Mood

Wearable devices that can track how many steps you walked today, measure your heart rate or evaluate how well you slept last night successfully occupied the global market. Moreover, mobile technology is pushing new boundaries, aiming to measure emotional well-being as well as physical health. Tech companies claim that biosensor technology in the devices can detect stress and anxiety by tracking the body’s physical reactions.

In 2017, Spire performed a Workplace Stress Study together with a Stanford psychology researcher. Spire is manufacture of a device that you clip to your clothing for measuring your breathing patterns to indicate whether you are stressed out. The results showed that over a 30-day period, participants assigned to the Spire group reported 27% fewer “anxious” days and 35% more “energetic” days.

This year, Feel is to release an app that will provide real-time coaching based on cognitive-behavioral therapy principles. The company designed this devise to help people cultivate emotional awareness and manage stress and mood. The rationale to develop therapeutic applications that could be delivered in real time when a person experiences distress.

Outside of industry, independents studies performed in different North American Universities have reported the effectiveness of sensor data in predicting aspects of mood and well-being. The studies have been focused on

  • investigating a possibility to diagnose depression based on the collected data about depressive symptoms for a 10- week period and
  • predicting relapses in people with schizophrenia through collecting information about behavioral patterns, sleep, social interactions, physical mobility, gross motor activity, cognitive functioning and speech production.

Designing and validating the devices, that can reliably predict schizophrenic relapses, detect signs of depression or deliver therapy modules to curb anxiety, is only half of the equation. The accuracy of a tracking device could matter less than how the person responds to it.

It is still necessary to get answers to the questions about who is most likely to engage with wearable devices, and how, why and when people would use them. Psychologists know that those who could benefit the most from the devices might be the least likely to take advantage of them. This is because people diagnosed with a certain mental illness, where lack of motivation is a symptom, could be even less engaged with the technology.

Given that the technology and research are both in their infancy, you should approach the information you receive from the apps carefully.

Source: Weir, K. (2018). Can an app change your mood? Monitor on Psychology, January issue.

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