January 17, 2023
What if it were possible to predict and warn of depression like we forecast severe weather? Thunderstorms are not predicted by increases in thunderstorms, which is how we currently predict depression — by monitoring symptoms over time. But instead, meteorologists monitor features and environmental fluctuations, pointing to upcoming changes to inform the public so they can prepare for the coming storm. Similarly, researchers at Leiden University are monitoring multimodal data of participants to help identify early warning signs of depressive episodes with the goal to facilitate early, personalised prevention.
Predicting and Preventing Depression
Depression is a common and debilitating affliction. Given that only 50% of patients improve under initial treatment1,2, experts agree that prevention is the most effective way to change depression’s global disease burden. The WARN-D study, a 5-year research project led by Associate Professor Dr. Eiko Fried at Leiden University, is using the Garmin vívosmart® 4 fitness tracker to monitor 2,000 students in the Netherlands for warning signs of depression, which could lead to prevention in the future.
Studying can be a stressful time, and some students experience mental health problems such as depression during their education. To understand these stressors and experiences better, the study is one of the first in the world to really focus on the daily lives of students, using smartphones and Garmin fitness trackers as data collection tools. The collected data will help researchers to build the personalised early warning system WARN-D, which will be available for free as a smartphone app.
Garmin’s Role in Health and Activity Monitoring
The researchers follow the participants for years and try to predict upcoming depressive episodes based on the collected data. To do this, participants wear a Garmin vívosmart® 4 fitness tracker 24/7, answer daily questions on their smartphone for the first 3 months and sync their data using the Garmin Connect™ smartphone app. The Garmin Health API collects the data and transfers it to the research team via the Fitrockr platform. The vívosmart® 4 fitness tracker will record sleep phases and duration, activity, heart rate, stress, and Body Battery™3. Researchers believe that sleep data, in particular, may be predictive of upcoming transitions into mental health problems.
For the researchers at Leiden University, Garmin offered an affordable technology package that supports compliance with strict European privacy laws, which is of vital importance with sensitive personal data.
About Fitrockr and Garmin Health
Fitrockr is a product suite of Digital Rebels GmbH — a software company based in Berlin. Its research and analytics platform allows organisations to easily manage and synchronise Garmin smartwatches with access to high-resolution raw data, independent hosting, real-time data streams, and direct analysis and export. Fitrockr is one of the deepest integrated technology implementations of the Garmin Health API and SDK, providing Garmin Health corporate solutions since 2018.
For more information, visit Fitrockr at www.fitrockr.com or learn more about Garmin Health Enterprise Health Solutions at www.garmin.com/health.
Want to learn more about related projects? Then read this blog about how data from Garmin fitness trackers aid researchers in panic attack prediction.
Garmin devices are not designed or intended to monitor or diagnose diseases or any medical conditions. Find information on metric accuracy here.
1 Cuijpers, P., Karyotaki, E., Reijnders, M., & Huibers, M. J. H. (2018). Who benefits from psychotherapies for adult depression? A meta-analytic update of the evidence meta-analytic update of the evidence. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 6073, 1–40. https://doi.org/10.1080/16506073.2017.1420098
2 Khan, A., & Brown, W. A. (2015). Antidepressants versus placebo in major depression: An overview. World Psychiatry, 14, 294–300. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20241
3 See Garmin.com/ataccuracy