Although it is estimated that 45 per cent of people in Australia will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, many of them remain undiagnosed and do not receive the treatment and support they need.
Currently, a diagnosis is made by a mental health professional based on self-reported symptoms. More objective markers of anxiety and depression will help to improve diagnosis. Also, mental health professionals may not be available in rural areas.
Mobile phones are increasingly powerful and have numerous sensors that can be used to measure symptoms of common mental health conditions, such as sleep disturbances, reduced physical activity, and social withdrawal. In this project we are developing a mobile phone app that will give information about the social activity of the user. We expect that this information will help to identify mental health conditions and that the app can also be used to monitor symptom changes during treatment.
We have developed an app that people can install on their own phone. The app measures social activity using Bluetooth and GPS. We have tested the app to determine if it correctly detects social activity and have established its feasibility in several pilot studies.
We are currently conducting a larger study to determine whether the social activity patterns detected by the app can be used to accurately detect mental health conditions.
Participants will install the app on their phone to passively collect data about their social activity. They will also fill out standard questionnaires to measure the severity of anxiety and depression. This will be used to identify aspects of social activity that best predicts mental health conditions as well as changes in anxiety and depression over time.
Following this study, we will involve mental health professionals and people with lived experience to translate these research outcomes into a product that can be used in clinical practice.
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)