What Your Smartphone Knows That Your Mother Doesn’t

What Your Smartphone Knows That Your Mother Doesn’t

Can Your Smartphone Be Used to Detect Depression?

By Suelain Moy

It’s always there, in your pocket or purse or on your desk, quietly collecting information. And apparently, when it comes to depression, there’s quite a lot your smartphone knows about you.

According to a small study from Northwestern Medicine, that data from your smartphone can predict with eerie 87 percent accuracy whether you’re suffering from depression or not.

The telling signs: You spend more time on your smartphone and less time leaving the house, and you visit very few places each day.

Related: Smartphone Notifications Are Killing Our Concentration

The researchers used Craigslist to find 40 test subjects between the ages of 19 and 58, and outfitted their smartphones with an app to monitor their location and usage. The individuals took a questionnaire that measured signs of depression; half of the subjects had troubling symptoms and half did not. Using GPS, the phones tracked the subjects’ movements and locations every five minutes. The subjects also were asked questions about their mood at different points during the day.

These factors were then correlated with the test subjects’ original depression test scores. And the results were uncanny. Depressed people used their phones more often and for longer periods of time —an average of 68 minutes a day. By comparison, the individuals who didn’t show signs of depression spent only 17 minutes on theirs. Researchers attributed the increased use of the phone to task avoidance, another symptom of depressed people.

Perhaps more significant than the findings of this small study — only 28 of the 40 subjects had enough data to be studied — is the potential the researchers felt that smartphones could play in future medical diagnosis.

When loaded up with the correct sensors, the smartphone can be used to detect a person’s emotional states, and monitor moods, without the user having to utter a word. It also has the ability to offer suggestions to reinforce positive behaviors when depression is detected. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research yesterday, but one conclusion was becoming increasingly evident even before the report came out: Smartphones — and the sensors they now contain — just keep getting smarter.

Chart of the Week: Lowering Medicare Drug Prices

A growing number of patients are being denied access to newer oral chemotherapy drugs for cancer pills with annual price tags of more than $75,000.
By Michael Rainey

The U.S. could save billions of dollars a year if Medicare were empowered to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, according to a paper published by JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this week. Researchers compared the prices of the top 50 oral drugs in Medicare Part D to the prices for the same drugs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates its own prices and uses a national formulary. They found that Medicare’s total spending was much higher than it would have been with VA pricing.

In 2016, for example, Medicare Part D spent $32.5 billion on the top 50 drugs but would have spent $18 billion if VA prices were in effect – or roughly 45 percent less. And the savings would likely be larger still, Axios’s Bob Herman said, since the study did not consider high-cost injectable drugs such as insulin.  

Why Craft Brewers Are Crying in Their Beer

		<p>The $85 billion in spending cuts is just $10 million more than what Americans spent on beer in 2011.</p>
Scott Olson/Getty Images
By Michael Rainey

It may be small beer compared to the problems faced by unemployed federal workers and the growing cost for the overall economy, but the ongoing government shutdown is putting a serious crimp in the craft brewing industry. Small-batch brewers tend to produce new products on a regular basis, The Wall Street Journal’s Ruth Simon says, but each new formulation and product label needs to be approved by the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is currently closed. So it looks like you’ll have to wait a while to try the new version of Hemperor HPA from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, a hoppy brew that will include hemp seeds once the shutdown is over.

Number of the Day: $30 Billion

Benis Arapovic/GraphicStock
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The amount spent on medical marketing reached $30 billion in 2016, up from $18 billion in 1997, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and highlighted by the Associated Press. The number of advertisements for prescription drugs appearing on television, newspapers, websites and elsewhere totaled 5 million in one year, accounting for $6 billion in marketing spending. Direct-to-consumer marketing grew the fastest, rising from $2 billion, or 12 percent of total marketing, to nearly $10 billion, or a third of spending. “Marketing drives more treatments, more testing” that patients don’t always need, Dr. Steven Woloshin, a Dartmouth College health policy expert and co-author of the study, told the AP.

70% of Registered Voters Want a Compromise to End the Shutdown

National Zoo closed in due to the partial government shutdown in Washington
By The Fiscal Times Staff

An overwhelming majority of registered voters say they want the president and Congress to “compromise to avoid prolonging the government shutdown” in a new The Hill-HarrisX poll. Seven in ten respondents said they preferred the parties reach some sort of deal to end the standoff, while 30 percent said it was more important to stick to principles, even if it means keeping parts of the government shutdown. Voters who “strongly approve” of Trump (a slim 21 percent of respondents) favored him sticking to his principles over the wall by a narrow 54 percent-46 percent margin. Voters who “somewhat approve” of the president favored a compromise solution by a 70-30 margin. Among Republicans overall, 61 percent said they wanted a compromise.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted January 5 and 6 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.