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16 March 2022

Spending more time at home is linked to more severe symptoms in people with depression

Researchers from the RADAR-CNS project have used data from smartphones and wearables to investigate the association between time spent at home and the severity of symptoms in people with major depressive disorder (MDD).

More than one in three young adults report symptoms of ‘smartphone addiction’, regardless of length of daily use

The study, published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth, revealed that individuals diagnosed with MDD who spent more time at home also reported more severe symptoms. 

The researchers collected data from 164 participants with MDD who were recruited for the RADAR-CNS project - a collaboration co-led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN). Using geolocation data obtained from smartphones and wearables, the researchers were able to determine the amount of time each participant spent at home.

The findings showed that those who spent more time at home within the 2-week study period reported more severe symptoms of depression. Further analyses revealed that those who were older and more severely affected by depression spent more time at home during the two-weeks prior to symptom reports. The association between time spent at home and symptom severity was stronger on weekdays compared to weekends.

The study indicates that geolocation data obtained from smartphones and wearables could provide clinically relevant information to improve remote monitoring of an individual’s mental wellbeing.

Our findings showed that age and whether a person is employed influence the strength of the association between the severity of MDD symptoms and home stay. This insight is of great importance for the interpretation of similar studies that were conducted in the past or will be planned in the future to ensure we consider the different factors at play in the relationship between time spent at home and depression. Future work will investigate whether changes in home stay can be used to predict relapses in MDD, which could ultimately provide an important approach to monitor severity of symptoms in a continuous and informative way.

Dr Petroula Laiou, joint first author from the IoPPN, King’s College London

RADAR-CNS is jointly led by Professor Matthew Hotopf, Vice Dean of Research at the IoPPN, and Vaibhav Narayan, Vice President of Research Technology at Janssen Pharmaceutica NV. The project brings together clinicians, researchers, engineers, computer scientists, and bioinformaticians from all over the world to investigate how wearable technologies and smartphones can help track and prevent symptoms of depression, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.

More than 264 million people suffer from depression around the world and the condition is commonly associated with other physical or psychological conditions, loss of employment, low quality of life, and suicide. Symptoms of MDD can fluctuate and the current evaluation of their severity relies heavily upon the information a patient provides during meetings with clinicians. Advances in digital technologies are allowing researchers and clinicians to obtain continuous data about an individual’s daily activity and physical condition which may be able to predict an individual’s wellbeing and enable timely and effective treatments.

The paper ‘The Association Between Home Stay and Symptom Severity in Major Depressive Disorder: Preliminary Findings From a Multicenter Observational Study Using Geolocation Data From Smartphones’ was published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth.

For more information, please email Franca Davenport, Communications and Engagement Manager at the NIHR Maudsley BRC.

In this story

Matthew Hotopf

Executive Dean, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

Petroula Laiou

Research Fellow