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Depression Treatment May Be Boosted By Smartwatches: A Study

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Depression Treatment May Be Boosted By Smartwatches: A Study

(CTN News) – According to a new study, smartwatches can offer mental health clinicians valuable insight into depression symptoms in addition to counting steps and sleeping patterns.

The use of wearable technology is part of a new focus on precision medicine, which will allow clinicians to better tailor treatment for individual patients, according to Joshua Curtiss, Assistant Professor of applied psychology at Northeastern University, United States.

According to Curtiss, the purpose of this type of research was to determine whether we can use passive sensor data to predict the things we care about – such as changes in depression severity or symptoms of depression.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the study demonstrated the very individual ways depression manifests itself in individuals.

Researchers took data from anonymous patients at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) who wore the Empatica E3 wristband to monitor sleep, movement, heart rate variability, and other physiological indicators.

In addition to sleep disorders – too much or too little – lack of physical activity and social isolation can also be symptoms of depression.

The symptoms can be tracked by wearable technology in the form of digital watches and smartphones, according to Curtiss.

As an example, clinicians can inspect data to determine how often text messaging apps were used for socialization, he explained.

A passive sensor system can provide an incredible tool for gathering more information that would otherwise be extremely difficult to obtain, according to Curtiss.

“This is not intended to override a physician’s Depression clinical judgment,” Curtiss explained.

To obtain a complete picture of a patient’s condition, we combine (sensor) data with clinical judgment and information provided by the patient.

The clinician may bring the patient’s attention to the data and discuss what is going on if it indicates the patient has not engaged in much physical activity, which may indicate fatigue or anhedonia – a lack of enjoyment of life, he said.

According to Curtiss, sleep patterns are no different.

Patients’ reports of symptoms are critical, however, it is common for them to underestimate or over report symptoms, either as a result of forgetting something, becoming accustomed to being distressed or being tired of filling out mental health questionnaires.


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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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