Smartwatches could detect signs of depression

A new European study shows a connection between Severity of depression and changes in heart rate in people with a history of recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD). The research, published in the journal physical medicine and led by the CIBER Mental Health Area (CIBERSAM) used smartwatches to track the evolution of the disease for two years.

Called during the investigation RADAR MDDData from 510 people were collected from three international scientific institutions: the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red (CIBER) in Spain, the Vrije Universiteit Medisch Centrum in the Netherlands and King’s College London in the UK.

The results of the study show that depression severity, assessed using the PHQ-8 questionnaire, is positively related to mean total heart rate during the day and negatively related to heart rate standard deviation. He PHQ-8 Questionnaire is a self-assessment questionnaire used to measure the severity of a person’s symptoms of depression, using eight questions to assess the main symptoms of depression: mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, trouble sleeping, fatigue, decreased concentration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, Changes in appetite or weight and thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression severity, assessed using the PHQ-8 questionnaire, is positively related to mean total heart rate during the day and negatively related to standard deviation.

In addition, the study participants were monitored by Smartwatches for collecting heart rate data. From this information, seven daily heart rate characteristics were selected, including the mean and standard variation in heart rates during the day, at rest, and at night.

Mental health and physiological markers

This was shown by the results of both measurements (PHQ-8 questionnaire and monitoring by the smartwatch). Changes in heart rate are related to the severity of depression. Two trends could be identified: on the one hand, people with less variability in their heart rate showed stronger depressive symptoms during the day and, on the other hand, those who showed a higher heart rate at night also felt more pronounced symptoms of depression.

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Joseph Maria Haroa researcher at CIBERSAM and Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu, explains that these results “give us a better understanding of it.” Association between mental health and physiological markers like heart rate. In addition, he adds that “it gives us the opportunity to collect accurate data in real time using remote monitoring technology.” new ways to improve the detection and treatment of depression“.

Sara Siddi, first author of this manuscript and coordinator of the study in Spain, asserts: “From a clinical perspective, these results are very relevant as they indicate that a higher heart rate and lower diurnal heart rate variability at rest may be associated with a greater susceptibility to linked to the severity of depression, meaning that people with a faster and less fluctuating heart rate may be more likely to experience more intense or recurrent depression.”

Remote technology would allow early warning in the event of a possible relapse

Therefore, using HR as a specific biomarker to monitor fluctuations in depression severity in at-risk individuals via remote technology would allow early warning in the event of a possible relapse, while allowing physicians to take action and initiate prompt treatment.

The CIBER Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN) and Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP) and other European institutions such as the University of Bergamo (Italy) and the KU Leuven (Belgium) or the IRCCS San Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli Center (Italy).

Reference:

Siddi, S., Bailon, R., Giné-Vázquez, I., Matcham, F., Lamers, F., Kontaxis, S., . . . Haro, J. (2023). The utility of daytime and nighttime heart rate dynamics as digital biomarkers of depression severity. psychological medicine.

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