In a statement, the University said these devices could be used to help clinicians identify early warning signs of common mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and stress and monitor treatment success.
For example, smart watches, which are used to track physical activity or simply worn as a fashion statement, could provide real-time indicators of how someone was functioning, which, in turn, could identify worsening mental health.
The study, led by Dr Alissa Knight and Flinders Associate Professor Niranjan Bidargaddi, was sponsored by Fitbit and looked at 43 young adults.
“Watches and tracking apps are unique in that they can provide data on a person’s daily behaviour and mental state in real-time. This study tested whether smart technology can also provide updates about someone’s mental health, while also allowing users to track their own well-being if they choose to do so.”
Results from the study showed that disruptions in routine physical activity over an extended period might be a reliable indicator of changes in an individual's mental condition.
The subjects had all previously reported suffering moderate psychological distress and their physical activity was then monitored over eight months using smart watches and phone apps to determine if their mental condition correlated with changes in physical activity.
“Traditionally it has been difficult to get an update on someone's mental health in between clinical sessions, but our study found people are generally happy to share their personal data in real-time when it's tracked by wearable technology,” Dr Knight said.
She said that while the study showed wearable technology could be used to monitor changes in mental health, the next step was further research into what devices and apps were most effective.
“These devices could be used as a resource to empower patients self management of their mental health, and improve clinical treatment, however more research is required to determine a standard tracking system for symptoms," Dr Knight said.
“Improved location data would allow us to understand how often sufferers leave their house in a certain number of days or whether they are spending more time at the gym.”
The study was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.