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Apple Supports UCLA Three-Year Study on Depression and Anxiety

By Grace Stewart , Aug 05, 2020 08:47 AM EDT

UCLA announced the launching of a three-year study on depression and anxiety utilizing Apple technology.

The research aims to understand how some factors impact the symptoms of anxiety and depression. These factors include physical activity, heart rate, and sleep. The study will collect data using Apple technology. 

Dr. Nelson Freimer, director of the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge, is the principal investigator of the three-year study. UCLA said that the pilot phase would kick off this week. For the pilot, the school will recruit 150 participants from the UCLA health patients. The succeeding stages will expand to 3,000 participants. This time participants will come from both the student body and the hospital.

Study participants will download the research app on their iPhone. Apple will provide the Apple Watch and Beddit sleep-monitoring devices to the participants. During the study, participants will share relevant information through clinical interviews. There will also be questionnaires that they need to answer. Other data will be gathered from the iPhone, watch, and sleep monitor.


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The study is expected to enable health care providers to detect early warning signs. Detection is crucial in preventing the onset of depressive episodes. It will also help track the effectiveness of treatment as well as identify the causes of depression.

The method of detecting depression has not changed for more than a century, UCLA noted. Doctors would typically observe patients and ask how they feel. Currently, approaches to treating depression rely on the subjective recollection of sufferers.

The three-year study is designed to be conducted remotely. Freimer said the school and Apple created the study to make all the aspects of participation private. Privacy is a significant consideration of the study. UCLA and Apple said they plan to anonymize the data that they will collect. Access to the data will be limited to the research team.


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Apple is keeping its focus on health and fitness

The project is the latest initiative that Apple will be participating in. For the past years, Apple has been focusing on the health and fitness area. In 2014, Apple launched HealthKit. It is a feature of the iOS 8 that tracks and analyses a person's fitness level.

On June 22, 2020, Apple previewed watchOS7 that will deliver new health and fitness features. Sleep tracking is one of the latest features coming to watchOS7. Sleep tracking detects micro-movements from the device's accelerometer. The feature tracks when the wearer is sleeping and measure how much sleep he gets.

Another feature of watchOS7 is the Noise app. The app measures ambient sound levels and duration of exposure. There will also be audio notifications when the total listening reached 100 percent of the safe level. The app will help users understand how loud they are listening to their media. 

The Activity app is redesigned. It is now called Fitness. The app will offer a streamlined view of activity, workouts, and activity trends on one tab. The other tab will have activity sharing and activity competitions.

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