Your smartphone knows when you’re depressed - tracking GPS and usage data can predict depression with 87 per cent accuracy

Clara Guibourg
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It may seem creepy, but results from this study could help diagnose depression quicker (Source: Getty)

You may be able to fake a smile, but you can’t hide your true feelings from your mobile phone.

It may feel as though our phones know everything about us. Now it seems they can even tell when we’re feeling blue, according to a new study from Northwestern University.

Researchers exploring whether a person’s mobile phone habits could predict whether or not they were depressed found that the predictions were correct a staggering 87 per cent of the time.

The way they checked for depression was through the phone’s GPS and usage data. Basically, spending a lot of time at home is a symptom of depression, and secondly, it turns out that the more time you spend using your phone, the more likely it is you are depressed.

The average daily usage for depressed individuals was 68 minutes, compared to 17 for non-depressed individuals.

The researchers believe their results could lead to quicker interventions against depression, by monitoring people at risk, as a lot of depression currently goes undiagnosed.

Senior author David Mohr commented:

We now have an objective measure of behavior related to depression. And we’re detecting it passively. Phones can provide data unobtrusively and with no effort on the part of the user.

The study tracked 28 individuals through their phone data for two weeks, and measured their usage against their self-reported levels of depression.

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