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Study finds smartwatch may help boost treatment for depression

Discover how smartwatches can help transform depression treatment, providing clinicians with vital insights into patients' mental health status. Learn how wearable technology goes beyond traditional functions to effectively monitor depression symptoms.

Muskan Gupta Written By: Muskan Gupta New Delhi Published on: February 25, 2024 12:36 IST
treatment for depression
Image Source : FREEPIK Smartwatch may boost treatment for depression: Study

A recent study has highlighted the potential of smartwatches in revolutionizing the treatment of depression by providing clinicians with valuable insights into patients' mental health status. Beyond their conventional functions like step counting and sleep tracking, smartwatches can now serve as a tool to monitor depression symptoms effectively, according to findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Joshua Curtiss, an Assistant Professor of applied psychology at Northeastern University in the US, emphasized the significance of wearable technology in the realm of precision medicine. He said, "The purpose of this type of research was to figure out if we can use passive sensor data to predict the things we care about -- to see if it is associated with changes in depression severity or symptom severity," Curtiss said.

"It showed the very individualised ways depression manifests in people," the professor added, in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study, conducted with anonymized patient data from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), focused on monitoring various physiological indicators including sleep patterns, physical activity, and social interactions. Curtiss highlighted that alterations in sleep patterns, excessive or reduced physical activity, and social isolation are common symptoms of depression, all of which can be tracked efficiently through wearable technology.

By utilizing data from digital watches and smartphones, clinicians can gain insights into patients' socialization patterns, such as frequency of text messaging, alongside other indicators. Curtiss emphasized that while passive sensor data provides valuable information, it complements rather than replaces clinical judgment and patient input.

The integration of passive sensor data into clinical practice can significantly reduce the burden of patient self-reporting, which often leads to underreporting or overreporting of symptoms. "This is not to supersede clinical judgement. We combine (sensor) information with our clinical judgement and what the patients are telling us to get a full picture,"  Curtiss said.

Joshua Curtiss also noted that this approach enables clinicians to quickly grasp a new patient's mental health status and facilitates more informed discussions regarding treatment options.

The study underscores the potential of smartwatches and wearable technology as valuable tools in enhancing the treatment of depression. By harnessing passive sensor data, clinicians can personalize treatment strategies and provide more effective support to individuals struggling with depression.

(with IANS inputs) 

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