Cell Phone GPS can help in identifying depressive symptom severity

Today, the majority of the people can’t think of life without cell phones. This has forced researchers to carry out studies to comprehend what this connection can reveal about a user’s health and mood. A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) revealed that a cell phone might accurately reveal whether the person using it is suffering from depression. According to the said study, the assessment made based on cell phone data would be more accurate even than self-assessment made by an individual about his or her depression.

One of the coauthors of the study David Moore said that he and his colleagues found that the more number of hours people spend on their mobile phones, the greater would be their chances of becoming more depressed. Moore is the director of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies.

The findings of the study also allowed the researchers to conclude that spending a lot of time at home can also be a cause of depression.

They found that phone data similar to the one mentioned above can reveal whether a person is experiencing symptoms of depression with 87% accuracy.

For carrying out this study, researchers at the Northwestern University recruited a total of 28 people, each of whom was aged between 18 and 58 years. The recruitments, according to reports, were made through Craigslist.

The smartphones of these participants were first souped up with usage and location monitoring software. Researchers began the study with a standardized survey that would measure different depressive symptoms. Half of the participants had those symptoms, while the remaining half didn’t.


For a period of two weeks, the cell phones tracked the GPS location information of the participants once in every five minutes. In addition, the participants were also pinged and questioned about their frame of mind from time to time.

These steps allowed the researchers get hold of some rich data including the frequency at which the subject used their mobile phoned, the number of places they visited every day, and the time they spent in those places. These facts and figures were then correlated with the depression test scores of the participants. The results of the comparison made it clear that cell phone data can predict depression in users.

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