A speech-analysing app could monitor users’ mental health

Researchers are working on an app that will monitor users’ mental health by analysing their speech.

As Psych Central reports, acoustician Carol Espy-Wilson and her colleagues at the University of Maryland examined the results of a 2007 study, where a group of people with depression were asked how they were feeling each week, using the Hamilton Depression Scale to record fluctuations in mood.

Researchers then recorded each participant as they spoke about their week. When Espy-Wilson and her team compared the mood scores to the voice recordings, they found a link between depression and speech patterns. Those with breathier, slower voices weren’t just big Marilyn Monroe fans; they were actually the most depressed. Speech that contained a lot of ‘jitter’ and ‘shimmer’, which makes voices sound hoarse, was also a sign of worsening mental health.

They now want to use this information to develop an app that can gauge a user’s mental health from their speech, and perhaps send that info on to their therapist or doctor. Espy-Wilson points out that often people with depression don’t realise they’re ill, or don’t realise their condition has worsened. The app could not only keep track of their health so they have a record of their ups and downs, but allow them to spot the signs of a relapse more quickly so they can access treatment sooner. The researchers are especially hopeful that teens and young people, who traditionally find it harder to ask for help, might embrace the new technology.

However, they have a way to go before it becomes a reality, including a new study that will record speech patterns of people who aren’t depressed as well as those who are, to see if they can create a more specific speech profile for someone with (and without) depression. They also have to find out if the app would appeal to people experiencing or at risk of mental illness.

Image via Pixabay.

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