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Detecting Depression Through a Screen By: Nazli Mohideen

Mental health is an ongoing crisis in America, affecting an estimated 50 million adults, and this number is only worsening because of COVID. There have been increased reports of people struggling with anxiety and depression along with alcoholism and substance abuse. This is largely in part due to financial uncertainty, job loss, online learn ing, and social isolation. Depression is generally described as a medical illness that can negatively affect how someone feels, thinks, or acts, ac cording to the American Psychiatric Association. The ill ness is far more serious than just a “bad day” or “feeling sad.” When left untreated, depression can lead to strokes, heart attacks, sleep deprivation, weight gain or loss, and more. Having trouble staying asleep, changes in physical activity levels, and thoughts of suicide are some of the many signs that someone may be suffering from the illness. In what they’re calling Project “Seabreeze,” Apple technol ogy is trying to detect depression in its users through data monitoring. The project, in partnership with researchers from Biogen and the University of California, will analyzve sleep and typing patterns as well as movement. Researchers believe being aware of heart and respiration rates will also be helpful when drawing a connection between symptoms and a possible diagnosis of depression. Apple technology is well-accustomed to creating features for tracking various aspects of health. The Apple Watch,

for example, tracks sleep schedules, menstrual cycles, and heart rate. There are also options to alert the user of any ab normal heart rate changes in addition to timers for proper hand washing. With this new style of detecting depression using biometrics, Apple hopes this will open new doors for detecting other conditions like autism, anxiety, and differ ent types of cognitive decline. Some Apple users are wary about the ethics of this idea, but all the data collected will be strictly on the Apple device and nothing will be sent to the company itself. To truly test if the concept is feasible, Apple and UCLA be gan a study in August 2020 with 150 people, which will last until 2023. During this time, data from Apple technology is collected, hormone levels are recorded, and questionnaires are filled out by the sample population. Even though Apple is ambitious to add these features to its products and diagnose more conditions, the research will take years to properly conduct and for the idea to be imple mented, if at all. With technology use and the number of people struggling with mental health on the rise, Apple's proposed idea might just be an extraordinary breakthrough waiting to happen, both in technology and in healthcare, as we know it. Sources:

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