Depression Detection for iPhones — A Future Feature?

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Apple is working on various health tools and depression detection for iPhones is one of them. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is partnering with the University of California, Los Angeles, and Biogen to evaluate whether or not its gadgets can be used to detect signs of anxiety, cognitive decline, and depression. 

iPhone Sensor 

The report states that the sensor data on iPhone could detect patterns associated with cognitive impairment and health conditions. 

The iPhone maker’s partnership with UCLA focuses on depression and anxiety. But its collaboration with Biogen will be a different subject as it focuses on mild cognitive decline. 

The project with UCLA involves data from iPhone keyboards, cameras, and audio sensors. It also uses movement data on Apple Watch, like typing speed, content, vital signs, sleep, and many others. 

The data gathered will be compared to results from a questionnaire that the users answered about their emotions. Their cortisol levels are also obtained. 

Currently, most of the health detection features are in Apple Watch. It makes sense because the device has vital sensors in monitoring vital signs, such as HR, blood oxygen levels, and others. 

In 2018, the Watch introduced an atrial fibrillation detection feature that the FDA cleared. 

Even though these studies are separate, they will all utilize sensor and health data from iPhone. 

Recently, Apple added the Walking Steadiness feature on its Health app. It uses sensors on the iPhone to detect if the person is prone to a serious fall in one year. 

The data gathered from iPhone cameras and users’ mental health statuses are sensitive. Because of the stigma about mental illness, people are not likely to seek help, even if they have all the resources they need. 


Apple Health Data Private

Apple stated that the data on its Health app is considered private. The report stated that the depression detection feature will gather the local data. It means that the feature will work without sending the data to the company’s servers. 

However, some people may still not give up their privacy, even if it could help them. 

These studies are still in the early stages. Apple and other tech companies working on health features need to face regulatory hurdles. 

When Apple released its ECG feature after partnering with Stanford University, the company had to obtain clearance from the FDA to include the feature in its Series 4. 

Another feature that has been reported to be in the works is blood glucose monitoring. The first time it was reported was in 2017. Up to now, there are no signs that Apple is introducing it to its iDevices. 

Although the depression detection feature can be useful, it won’t be considered diagnostic. The possible thing that it can do is to tell you that you may be at risk of depression or cognitive impairment. Hence, you may need to consult your doctor. 

However, even if the depression detection feature isn’t diagnostic, it may still help in notifying the user. It’s up to the user to do something about it.


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Author: Jane Danes

Jane has a lifelong passion for writing. As a blogger, she loves writing breaking technology news and top headlines about gadgets, content marketing and online entrepreneurship and all things about social media. She also has a slight addiction to pizza and coffee.

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