forced perspective photography of cars running on road below smartphone

Digital trackers for mental health not yet fit for purpose

For example, a marker of concern might be a sudden drop in smartphone-based communication. For one person this could be a sign of social withdrawal, but for another this might mean they are communicating face to face instead: the link between online and offline behaviour remains unclear and under-researched.

“There are serious ethical questions due to the intrusive nature of having all digital interactions recorded,” said Dr Davidson. “We do not yet know the impact of continuous monitoring on people, yet alone those with severe psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar, and various depressive disorders, commonly seen in current research samples. I would like to see greater study of data from the general population as a safer avenue to pursue until the research is more established.”

Dr Davidson raises further concerns regarding privacy and data protection, both particularly important for sensitive data from devices alongside (mental) health information. Dr Davidson hopes that professional bodies will provide guidelines regarding ethical, privacy and security, and data collection protocols for conducting this research.