Can Your Smartphone Be Used to Detect Depression?
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.
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.
Democratic presidential candidates are proposing a variety of new taxes to pay for their preferred social programs. Bloomberg’s Laura Davison and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou took a look at how the top four candidates would fare under their own tax proposals.
“The fact is very little medical care is shoppable. We become good shoppers when we are repeat shoppers. If you buy a new car every three years, you can become an informed shopper. There is no way to become an informed shopper for your appendix. You only get your appendix out once.”
— David Newman, former director of the Health Care Cost Institute, quoted in an article Thursday by Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times. Levey says the “consumer revolution” in health care – in which patients shop around for the best prices, forcing doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms to compete with lower prices – hasn’t materialized, but the higher deductibles that were part of the effort are very much in effect. “High-deductible health insurance was supposed to make American patients into smart shoppers,” Levey writes. “Instead, they got stuck with medical bills they can't afford.”
The House Ways and Means Committee released a new analysis of drug prices in the U.S. compared to 11 other developed nations, and the results, though predictable, aren’t pretty. Here are the key findings from the report:
- The U.S. pays the most for drugs, though prices varied widely.
- U.S. drug prices were nearly four times higher than average prices compared to similar countries.
- U.S. consumers pay significantly more for drugs than other countries, even when accounting for rebates.
- The U.S. could save $49 billion annually on Medicare Part D alone by using average drug prices for comparator countries.
The U.S. ranks 18th for retiree well-being among developed nations, according to the latest Global Retirement Index from Natixis, the French corporate and investment bank. The U.S. fell two spots in the ranking this year, due in part to rising economic inequality and poor performance for life expectancy.