The wearables market is flooded with devices that can monitor physical health such as heart rate, blood glucose and so on, but there aren’t many out there that can track our mental health.
Mood disorders are mental illnesses that affect how you feel and think about yourself, other people and life in general. Scientists say technology used in health monitoring wearables can be used to track our psychological health in ways never before possible, reports NBC.
“By spotting early signs of emotional distress, the new apps and wearables could soon help preserve our mental well-being,” the report said.
“We rely on patients to tell us how they feel, and we are beholden to that in making our decisions,” says Ipsit Vahia, a psychiatrist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. But because it isn’t subject to the vagaries of our mood and our ability to assess our psychological state, technology could give doctors more reliable information.
Mood-forecasting technology is a procedure that utilizes the connection between the mind and the body. Studies have shown that changes in our mental state, including periods of sadness or anxiety, affect our bodies in many ways.
A study conducted on 201 college students last June found wearable sensors were 80% accurate in determining when students were feeling stressed.
The best-known biomarker for our emotions is the heart rate, as our pulse speeds up when we’re stressed. But there are other ways that our body can respond to emotional distress. “We know that reduced movement and sleep are markers of depression,” Vahia says. Stress makes us sweat profusely and our skin temperature often rises with what Harvard psychologist Matthew Nock calls ‘emotional arousal.’
Theoretically, any wearable with sensors for measuring pulse, skin temperature and movement can help track our mood. But even simple gestures or movements can reveal a lot about our emotional state, for example, the way we use our phone.
We post regularly on social media, but the pace at which we do this can tell a lot about our mood. For instance, we post more photos when we’re happy and post fewer when we’re down.
“Based on how we use technology, our mental state can be predicted,” says Sharath Guntuku, a research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Digital Health in Philadelphia.