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Smartphone App Helps Assess Depressed Moods


A mobile app that lets patients record feelings and monitors engagement and activity may help assess and treat depression.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"50286","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","height":"295","id":"media_crop_8967433369405","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6127","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"float: right;","title":"©Vlad_Nikon/Shutterstock.com ","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"153"}}]]A smartphone application could help assess and treat patients with depression, according to a new study, which found that the mobile app correlated well with clinically assessed depression scores.

Daily mood ratings recorded in a smartphone may be a useful way to monitor symptoms and support treatment for people with depression, according to researchers, led by Anh Truong, MD, with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX.

Truong presented the results of the study at the 2016 American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in Atlanta, GA.

In a pilot study, a total of 25 patients, average age 51 years, used the Smartphone and Online Usage Based Evaluation for Depression (SOLVD) mobile application, developed by study co-authors at Rice University. Patients, who reported their daily mood over 8 weeks, came to the clinic every 2 weeks for a basic psychiatric visit.

The app monitored phone usage patterns, such as the times of calls and number of text messages, as well as the number of steps and amount of time spent messaging. Results from the app were compared with results from gold standard instruments, such as the Patient Health Questionaire-9 (PHQ-9), the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), which were measured biweekly in person by clinicians.

The app helps patients track feelings daily via a self-rated visual scale, and also monitors smartphone usage data. Monitoring usage data, said the authors, may provide clinicians with a better idea of how a patient experiences the disease on a daily basis.

The researchers found that the smartphone ratings correlated with the clinician-administered instruments; the correlation was stronger for people with moderate-to-severe depression than for those with mild depression. They also saw relationships between the PHQ-9 and specific aspects of cellphone usage monitoring, including daily steps taken, text message frequency, and time spent text messaging. For example, after measuring how much walking and texting the participants did, researchers noted that hihger levels of depression were associated with less texting--a sign, they note, of the psyhomotor retardation that often accompanies depression.

The adherence rate to the daily self-reported mood input was about 82%, and participants achieved a 95% attendance rate for clinic visits. Feedback about the app from patients indicates that they seemed more comfortable with the monitoring component if their doctors saw the data.

Although the results must be considered preliminary because of the study’s small sample size, the study authors suggest smartphone applications such as SOLVD hold promise as an effective way to monitor symptoms in a clinically depressed population. The app may be particularly useful in those with more severe depression and for being able to predict depression severity; even if patients are not fully truthful with physicians in person, the change in activity level will be captured by the app.

The next step in the research is to expand the trial to include adolescent and perinatal depression.


Truong A, et al "Concordance of clinical & electronic data in assessment of depression: Findings from the smartphone and online usage based evaluation for depression (SOLVD) study" Abstract 81. Presented at the American Psychiatric Association Meeting, May 14, 2016.


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