The Millstone Times November 2021


Detecting Depression Through a Screen By: Nazli Mohideen Mental health is an ongo- ing crisis in America, affect- ing 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 alco- holism and substance abuse. This is largely in part due to financial uncertainty, job loss, online learning, and social isolation. Depression is generally described as a medical illness that can negative- ly affect how someone feels, thinks, or acts, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The illness 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 technology is trying to detect depression in its users through data monitoring. The project, in partnership with researchers from Biogen and the University of Cal- ifornia, will analyze sleep and typing patterns as well as movement. Re- searchers 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 abnormal heart rate changes in addition to timers for proper hand washing. With this new style of detecting depression us- ing biometrics, Apple hopes this will open new doors for detecting other conditions like autism, anxiety, and different 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 began 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 re- corded, 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 implemented, 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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30 The Millstone Times

November 2021

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