Apple and UCLA Launch Depression and Anxiety Study

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Apple is teaming up with the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) to launch a three-year study to understand how sleep, physical activity, heart rate, and daily routine can impact anxiety and depression (via CNBC).


Kicking off this week, the study was co-designed by researchers at UCLA and Apple, and it will utilize the iPhone, Apple Watch, and Beddit sleep tracker that Apple owns and sells. UCLA and Apple hope the study will “revolutionize detection and treatment of depression.”

Connecting quantifiable data like heart rate, sleep, and physical activity to anxiety and depression symptoms has the potential to allow health care providers to note warning signs and prevent the onset of depressive episodes, track treatments, and find depression causes. From UCLA psychiatry professor Dr. Nelson Freimer, who is the study’s principal investigator:

“This collaboration, which harnesses UCLA’s deep research expertise and Apple’s innovative technology, has the potential to transform behavioral health research and clinical care. Current approaches to treating depression rely almost entirely on the subjective recollections of depression sufferers. This is an important step for obtaining objective and precise measurements that guide both diagnosis and treatment.”

“UCLA and Apple have designed this study so that all aspects of participation can be accomplished remotely. The pandemic has heightened anxiety and depression globally, and has increased awareness of the importance of behavioral health to overall wellbeing. At the same time, physical distancing requirements have limited in-person mental health assessment and treatment, leading to expanded use and acceptance of telehealth. These changes highlight the importance of incorporating technologies like those to be tested in this study into clinical research and eventually into practice.”

The pilot phase of the study begins this week and will involve 150 participants recruited from UCLA Health patients. The main phases of the study will take place from 2021 through 2023 and will involve 3,000 participants drawn from UCLA Health patients and the UCLA student body, so this is not a study that can be undertaken using Apple’s Health app.

Study participants will download a UCLA research app on their iPhones and will receive an ‌Apple Watch‌ and Beddit sleep monitor as part of the study.

Data from study participants will be kept safe with access limited to members of the UCLA research team. Data will be analyzed by Apple and UCLA after being coded and stripped of names and other contact information.