Mental health and academic performance
StudentLife, an app tested on Dartmouth students with their consent, provided insight into their mental health and academic performance. Andrew Campbell, a computer scientist at Dartmouth, states: “We found for the first time that passive and automatic sensor data, obtained from phones without any action by the user, significantly correlates student depression level, stress and loneliness with academic performance over the term.”
The researchers presented their findings at an international conference this month. The preliminary study monitored 48 students using this Android app over a 10-week period. The app automatically measured certain behaviors 24/7: sleep duration, number and duration of conversations per day, physical activity (walking, sitting, running), where they were located and how long they stayed there (dorm, class, gym, party), and more. The mobile device’s camera even measured when the lights went out.
Processed through computer algorithms, data acquired with the app was used to analyze mental health (depression, loneliness, and stress), academic performance (GPA), and behavioral trends (how stress, sleep, and gym visits change in response to college workload). The results obtained from the app correlated highly with information obtained in daily interviews.
Avatar provides motivational feedback
Designed for veterans undergoing physical rehabilitation after a debilitating injury, this app, dubbed PATRICIA (Personal Affective Therapist for Rehabilitation of Individuals with Cognitive Impairments), is still in development and early testing. Based on mobile sensors that provide real-time data, including heart rate and respiratory pattern, PATRICIA determines what motivational feedback is needed. Injured veterans could benefit greatly from such support when navigating difficult recovery after traumatic war injuries.
In addition to these examples, a number of other apps are appearing that utilize cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches to improve sleep and support positive behavioral change. This is an emerging area that needs further research. Questions about privacy will also need to be addressed, to ensure that users understand the goals of such data collection and what happens to the data that’s collected.