iPhone of the future may be able to tell if you are depressed

iPhone of the future may be able to tell if you are depressed

A recent report by the WSJ highlighted the following major issues that could be introduced to Apple devices: Technology giants are working on two research projects that can detect and diagnose mental health conditions.

Depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline can be detected by analyzing device usage.


  • The two projects are part of Apple’s efforts to change its brand name as a health and wellness company. Especially in reports that mental health problems are rising around the world, following a pandemic.

  • The first codename, “Seabreeze,” is a partnership with UCLA focused on addressing depression and anxiety. Another partnership, codenamed “Pi”, is with the health company Biogen. Pi focuses on the problem of cognitive decline.

Such data highlights the need for a wide range of solutions for detecting and diagnosing mental health problems, and the report suggests that Apple is working on a solution.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 41% of adults experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression in January. This is slightly higher than the 11% figure reported in the two years. Mental Health America also said screening for anxiety increased by 93% compared to last year.

How can the iPhone detect depression?

Technology giants often use the Apple Watch as a primary source for collecting health data such as heart rate, sleep, and blood oxygen levels. However, the new study aims to take advantage of everyday interactions on the iPhone.

This works by taking advantage of different inputs throughout the day. According to the WSJ, this includes “analyzing participants’ facial expressions, speaking styles, and pace and frequency of walks.” It also monitors how participants are typing, such as “speed of input, frequency of typos, content of input”. The UCLA and Biogen studies are part of a one- or two-year study involving 3,000 and 20,000 participants.

Researchers compare various inputs from participants’ iPhones and Apple Watches with existing mental health measurements such as cognitive assessments to measure the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in participants’ hair follicles. The goal is to identify similar correlations between device data and actual testing to determine how to use the iPhone to detect mental health status. The study follows a 2019 study that found that adults with cognitive impairment use the device differently than other adults. The purpose is to identify the exact way to distinguish between the two.

Is Apple the right company for this? Mental health detection tools are by no means Apple’s first health and welfare project.

As Time Cook once said, “Zoom out into the future and look back and ask,’What was Apple’s biggest contribution?’It’s in the areas of health and wellness.’” Do people trust Apple for such sensitive data?

As Apple sells its products, especially the Apple Watch, as health devices, the company is investing in research to promote health functions. After studying arrhythmias, Apple developed an electrocardiogram on the Apple Watch Series 4. Another project caused Walking Steadiness on iOS 15 and predicted the possibility of a fall in the next 12 months.