Mood Detecting App –
A team of Canadian researchers has developed an innovative mobile application that tracks users’ smartphone behavior to monitor their mental health. The team from Dalhousie University explained that they wanted to create a program that passively and effectively captures information on social interactions to gain insights into the mental health of youngsters, especially during the social isolation imposed due to coronavirus quarantine.
The app developed by the team is called PROSIT—Predicting Risks and Outcomes of Social Interactions. 300 people are currently using it and half of them are patients being treated at mental health facilities.
The application tracks data collected by participants’ smartphones that provide insights to their communications, physical activities, and recreational preferences. The data collected by the team included call history, message logs, pedometer readings, music preferences, and sleep time.
The researchers explained that they were not interested in the contents of the conversation, but other factors such as the frequency of communication and typed messages, the pressure used for each keystroke.
Rita Orji, a Dalhousie computer scientist who was a part of the team, explained that when people are emotional and angry, they want to send an emotional text. The typing speed is also affected, and the force applied to the keypad also changes.
Sandra Meier, a psychiatrist, and psychologist at IWK Health Center in Nova Scotia and Dalhousie, claimed the application to be fairly unusual. She lauded the application for helping the researchers find out whether the patients are anxious or depressed as just listening to people and analyzing the way they talk helps a lot in understanding their emotional state.
Along with the data gathered from the smartphone logs, the team asked users to participate in the study to submit weekly oral reports. The users had to record a 90-second audio clip reviewing their emotions, talking about anxiety and comfort levels and addressing their high and low points in the past week., then ranking these sentiments on a five-point scale.
The team says that they have followed strict ethical guidelines in the application process and for handling the personal data they collect. For example, while phone logs are received, the team may not access the contents of these calls and messages.
The team explained that they are not tracking the patients’ calls and messages, but they monitor the conversations to detect the frequency and how often those calls are placed. Therefore, the data is high-level, and people are actually comfortable sharing it. The participants have to sign a consent form listing all types of data that are supposed to be collected from them. The data is encrypted and stored in a secure location at the university.
PROSIT is a part of a growing number of free and commercial applications addressing mental health and well-being. Moodfit allows patients to track their moods, provides access to audio clips and articles, offering insights into those feelings, and gives suggestions on how to address these issues. Sanvello, on the other hand, offers cognitive behavioral therapy to improve physical and mental health while helping to tackle specific areas of anxiety like public speaking and test-taking.
Happify offers science-based activities and games to reduce stress and fight negative thoughts, boost self-confidence, and make the users happy. The subscription begins at USD 14.99 per month, but the users can choose a plan that gives them access to half of the content for free.