Apple teams up with UCLA on mental health study using Apple Watch, iPhone, and Beddit sleep tracker

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Apple and UCLA are teaming up on a new three-year study to understand how factors including sleep, physical activity, heart rate, and daily routines can play a role in depression and anxiety. As first reported by CNBC, UCLA will use data collected by iPhone, Apple Watch, and the Beddit sleep tracker. The study begins this week.

UCLA made the announcement today, explaining that 150 participants have been recruited from among UCLA Health patients. The next phase will expand to include 3,000 participants, including participants from the student body of UCLA.

The three-year study, which begins this week, was co-designed by researchers at UCLA and Apple to obtain objective measures of factors such as sleep, physical activity, heart rate and daily routines to illuminate the relationship between these factors and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

According to the university, participants will be instructed to download an app onto their iPhones to track data. The participants will also receive a Beddit sleep monitor and an Apple Watch, both of which will be used throughout the study for collecting additional data. The study will be done entirely remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, UCLA says. As such, participants will share relevant information through periodic clinical interviews and questionnaires, and through the data collected by their devices.

Dr. Nelson Freimer, the principal investigator on the study, explained that this research will offer new insights into behavioral health research and clinical care for depression:

“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,” Freimer said. “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.”

Due to the limited nature of the study, it will be completed using a UCLA research application rather than Apple’s Health app or the Apple Research app. The main phases of the study will occur from 2021 through 2023. The university emphasizes that its researchers as well as Apple will “analyze the data only after they are coded and stripped of names and other contact information.”

In the past, Apple has teamed up with Stanford Medicine on the Apple Watch Heart Study. Last year, Apple launched three new studies through its Research app: Women’s Health, Heart and Movement, and the Hearing Study.

Learn more in the full announcement from UCLA.

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