Phones and mental health: What if an app can tell you if you’re depressed? | Technology Apps

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If you have a sore throat, you can get tested for a host of things — Covid, RSV, strep, the flu — and receive a pretty accurate diagnosis (and maybe even treatment). Even when you’re not sick, vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure give doctors a decent sense of your physical health.

But there’s no agreed-upon vital sign for mental health. There may be occasional mental health screenings at the doctor’s office, or notes left behind after a visit with a therapist. Unfortunately, people lie to their therapists all the time (one study estimated that over 90 percent of us have lied to a therapist at least once), leaving holes in their already limited mental health records. And that’s assuming someone can connect with a therapist — roughly 122 million Americans live in areas without enough mental health professionals to go around.

But the vast majority of people in the US do have access to a cellphone. Over the last several years, academic researchers and startups have built AI-powered apps that use phones, smart watches, and social media to spot warning signs of depression. By collecting massive amounts of information, AI models can learn to spot subtle…


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