Your phone knows when you’re depressed — here’s how

If you’re like us, your phone is basically an extension of your body. Whether you’re snapping food pics for Instagram, calling an Uber, or texting in your group chat, your phone is your trusty BFF—right? Maybe not. New research shows that the more time people spend staring at their phones, the more depressed they get. This study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, claims that collecting data from phones may be a more accurate way to tell if someone is depressed than self-assessment methods currently used.

The researchers found 28 willing study participants via Craiglist, and installed monitoring devices on their phones. To start the study, the subjects were given a quiz to determine if they had symptoms of depression (half exhibited symptoms, and half did not). For two whole weeks, the researchers sent the subjects questions regarding their mood directly to their mobile phones. They also monitored objective phone data, like where they were when using their phone and exactly how long they spent glaring at their screen.

The results of the study were surprising— the objective data collected from the cell phones was 87% accurate when predicting if a person had depressive symptoms! The phone data was an even more accurate indicator of depression than the daily mood questions sent to the subjects.

According to the study, people who only spend time in a few locations (aka sitting on your couch all day watching reruns) are more likely to have signs of depression. And daily routines are also a huge indicator. Participants to tended to stay in the same pattern of movement had a lower depression score. This could be because people struggling with depression tend to fall out of their usual routines and patterns. And forget about the amount of time spent looking at Snapchat stories, that matters too. The study shows that, on average, those with depressive symptoms spend around 68 minutes on their phones every day. Those without symptoms of depression? Only 17 minutes! The researchers think that this trend could be because depressed people typically begin avoiding interaction and social obligations. So instead of going out in the world and feeling uneasy, people with depression retreat into their phones.

What do you think? Does your iPhone make you feel a bit down in the dumps? Or does scrolling through Instagram brighten your day?

(Images via here).

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