Future iPhones could detect mental illness, report says

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(NewsNation Now) — Apple is developing software that could allow a future iPhone to detect mental illness such as depression or even cognitive decline, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

The idea is reportedly in its early stages, but the company is optimistic it could make it to their millions of phones one day. It would work by analyzing the myriad of data your phone already can collect about you, from sleep patterns to physical activity and the way you use your phone.

Still, not everyone is convinced this can work, or even that it’s a great idea.

“If this information is used for the good, then of course, it can be very exciting,” Dr. Robi Ludwig said on NewsNation’s “The Donlon Report.” “The question really is transparency, and I don’t know how many people trust technology to be used to their benefit.”

There are also doubts that such intricate software will ever be ready for primetime.

“This is technology that various other companies have tried to implement throughout the years, and it’s never worked quite well,” Business Insider’s William Antonelli said on “The Donlon Report” on Tuesday. “It’s hard enough to diagnose mental illness in real life.”

Our phones can already learn a lot about us, from the stores we frequent to how many steps we’re taking. But Ludwig said going from a pedometer to a mental health diagnosis is a quantum leap. She said it would be difficult to replicate the intimate relationship between a patient and their doctor that can help get through the nuances of a diagnosis.

“That’s when you get the most real information — from a patient knowing that it’s safe,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig also said the phones are a source of depression for some people. Facebook was recently under fire for cultivating data that told them their Instagram platform exacerbated mental health issues but not meaningfully changing the user experience.

“It’s very hard to exist in the modern era without using your phone in some way,” Antonelli said. “In that case, I can’t really put the onus on the individual smartphone user to put down their phone. Rather, I would have to put the pressure on a company like Apple or Google, for example, to try and make sure that it’s not totally necessary to have a phone and to live in the real world.”

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