Can Wearables Track Mental Health In The Immediate Future?
Fitbit filed a new patent for ‘determining mental and cognitive state through physiological and other non-invasively obtained data,’ mentioning depression and bipolar specifically.
If you’re one of those folks who wonder why your Apple Watch reminds you to ‘Breathe’ from time to time, you’re certainly not alone. The Breathe App has been roasted on Twitter— and rather unfairly too—but that’s largely because it’s misunderstood. This is a simple yet effective mindfulness app that encourages you to set aside a few minutes each day to focus, centre yourself and connect as you breathe. You can also sign up for guided mediations as a next step.
Check On Stress Levels
It’s not just Apple, brands like Samsung, Fitbit, Garmin and Google’s Wear OS have made progress on tracking stress levels with stress scores, guided breathing and mindfulness; and not just stress on your body but also on your mind. Smartwatches use HRV (heart rate variability) that focuses on minute fluctuations of the heart; a low HRV reading is an indicator of stress. Brands like Garmin and Fitbit also focus on stress tracking in relation to workouts and fitness routines. Fitbit’s Sense and Charge 5 are kitted with an EDA (electrodermal activity) sensor. These wearables measure your body’s response to stress with an innovative multi-path sensor.
At CES 2019, Mercedes-Benz tied up with Garmin to create a smartwatch that would share important health data like your heart rate and stress levels back to your car dashboard to enhance your driving experience. It was tried on a 2020 CLA Coupe with a Mercedes-Benz branded Vivoactive 3 GPS.
Fitbit’s New Patent
Just recently, Fitbit filed a new patent for ‘Determining Mental and Cognitive State through Physiological and other non-invasively obtained data.’ It’s part of the brand and other wearables’ efforts to track psychological wellbeing. This patent mentioned depression and bipolar specifically.
The device can screen and predict mental health issues and cognitive states. The pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues, especially among young adults and kids. One in seven adolescents in the 10-19 age group are living with a diagnosed mental disorder globally (Source: UNICEF-SOWC 2021).
Can Wearables Step Up?
Quite a few start-ups are aiming to bridge the gap as mental health threatens to become one of the biggest 21st-century challenges. Sentio’s Feel wristband monitors your physiological signals throughout the day and learns to recognize your emotional patterns. It’s designed to log how you’re feeling (with the aid of a mobile app) and help you achieve your “emotional well-being goals.” The Mindd headband from Ybrain, a South Korean start-up sends weak electronic currents to the frontal lobe of your brain. The process neuroscientifically referred to as transcranial direct current stimulation is geared to stimulate the frontal lobe—where decreased activity is associated with depression.
I still remember a line from the product launch presentation of the first-ever Apple watch back in 2014: “Apple watch gets to know you the way your Personal Trainer would.” Gradually, wearables have moved from personal fitness to wellness companions. Soon you might be able to add from the psychologist to doctor and personal trainer.