Fitness trackers have been measuring our physical health for years. Now they are trying to help us manage our mental health as well.
recently announcedLaunching this fall, is one of the latest examples of a tech company expanding its wellness offerings to include stress management and general mental wellbeing. Fitbit’s new high-end smartwatch can measure signs of stress throughout the day, based on previous Sense on-demand checks. Startup Happy Health also recently introduced Happy Ring, which claims to track stress levels in real time. Both announcements came after Apple released its Mindfulness app for Apple Watch last year.
Why the sudden interest in reducing our stress?Other companies behind these products can answer. But it’s no surprise that tech companies, large and small, are paying more attention to mental health than physical fitness.
Wearables can already measure body signals such as heart rate, temperature, blood oxygen saturation, and heart rate variability that once would have required a visit to a doctor’s office or a standalone device. I’ve also gotten pretty good at monitoring my sleep patterns, including how much time I’m spending in different stages of sleep. seems like a natural next step.
Debra Kissen, Ph.D., CEO of Light On Anxiety Treatment Center, which specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy services, said: “Then, with the pandemic, I think the mental health concerns that have always been undeniably present have surfaced.”
There’s another simple reason wearables are expanding into new areas like mental wellness. That means technology is improving. Now that the sensors needed to measure basic metrics like heart rate and steps have been on the market for a while, it’s easy to scale them down.
“The more mature it becomes, the more likely it is that it can be made smaller and incorporated into wearable items such as watches and bands,” said Julie Ask, the market’s vice president and principal analyst. I will,” he said. Research firm Forester.
The centerpiece new feature of Fitbit Sense 2 is the ability to continuously measure changes in electrodermal activity (EDA), or sweat levels on your skin. These changes could indicate the body’s response to stress, but according to Fitbit, factors such as movement, noise and temperature can also affect he EDA. Sense 2 combines these measurements with skin temperature, heart rate variability and heart rate data to let you know when you may be stressed. Earlier versions of Sense allowed the wearer to run her EDA check on demand, but lacked the technology to passively measure changes throughout the day.
The recently launched Happy Ring claims to connect “the dots between mental and physical health.” Like Fitbit Sense, Happy Ring can monitor electrodermal activity to detect potential stress. Co-founded by one of Tinder’s founders, Sean Rad, Happy Health claims that the ring’s measurements become more personalized the more you wear it.
The Fitbit Sense 2 and Happy Ring may be two of the latest mental health-focused wearables, but they’re certainly not the only devices to do so. changed.As a mindfulness app with breathing sessions plus a new tool called Reflect. As the name suggests, this feature prompts users for reflection, such as when they’ve overcome difficulties or what they’re grateful for. Apple may have plans to further expand its ambitions in this area. The Wall Street Journal reports that iPhone makers are working on technology that could look for signs of depression and cognitive decline.
ofMeasure data such as heart rate, skin temperature, and activity.
The question is whether wearable devices can help manage stress. According to Kissen, body signals such as EDA and heart rate variability can be good indications of changes in physiology and activation of the sympathetic nervous system. A study published in his April 2022 to his June 2022 edition of the Journal of Medical Signals and Sensors also found that EDA may classify stress levels.
But changes in body markers such as heart rate, sweat rate and blood pressure don’t necessarily indicate stress and can be signs of other conditions, says Charles A., assistant professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. O’Donkoll told CNET in an email that he has not seen any research on wearables that shows these devices cause changes in levels of cortisol, which the Mayo Clinic calls “the primary stress hormone.” he added.
“The real test is whether these wearables can distinguish stress conditions from other physiological conditions,” he said.
Still, according to Kissen and Odonkor, it’s helpful to recognize when you might be stressed and have the tools to track the moment. Especially if you find yourself stressed sooner or later.
“When you catch stress early and do something about it, healthier things unfold,” Dr. Kissen said.