Depression rates have been soaring since the pandemic began. Adults reporting anxiety or depression-related symptoms reached 41% in January, nearly quadruple the early-2019 figure. Social media is also not helping with Instagram recently coming under fire for its negative impacts to teens' mental health.
Apple wants to help out and is working on technology with UCLA to help diagnose depression. A pilot phase began last fall tracking Apple Watch and iPhone data from 150 people and will continue with a main phase tracking similar data for 3,000 people starting this year.
Data will be tracked from iPhone's video camera, keyboard and audio sensors. All sorts of data will be collected including the pace of someone's walks, sleep patterns, speed of typing, frequency of typos and content they type. If the research finds that any of that data correlates with mental-health conditions, the hope is to turn those signals into an app or feature that could warn people they might be at risk and prompt them to seek care.
COO Jeff Williams, who oversees Apple’s health unit, has spoken enthusiastically to employees about the company’s potential to address surging rates of depression and anxiety as well as other brain disorders.
Short Squeez Takeaway: If they are successful, Apple could help tens of millions of people world-wide but privacy remains a big concern in the operation. To address privacy concerns Apple aims for algorithms that work on users’ devices and don’t send the data to Apple servers. The project is still in its early stages but we wish Apple and UCLA the best of luck on this one.