The StudentLife app, which compares students' happiness, stress, depression and loneliness to their academic performance, also may be used in the general population – for example, to monitor mental health, trigger intervention and improve productivity in workplace employees.
"The StudentLife app is able to continuously make mental health assessment 24/7, opening the way for a new form of assessment," said Dartmouth College computer science Professor Andrew Campbell, the study's senior author.
"This is a very important and exciting breakthrough," said Campbell.
The researchers built an Android app that monitored readings from smartphone sensors carried by 48 students during a 10-week term to assess their mental health (depression, loneliness, stress), academic performance (grades across all their classes, term GPA and cumulative GPA) and behavioural trends.
They used computational method and machine learning algorithms on the phone to assess sensor data and make higher level inferences.
The app that ran on students' phones automatically measured the following behaviours 24/7 without any user interaction: sleep duration, the number and duration of conversations per day, physical activity, where they were located and how long they stayed there, stress level, how good they felt about themselves, eating habits and more.
The researchers used a number of well known pre- and post-mental health surveys and spring and cumulative GPAs for evaluation of mental health and academic performance, respectively.
The results show that passive and automatic sensor data from the Android phones significantly correlated with the students' mental health and their academic performance over the term.
The results open the door to your phone automatically knowing if you are depressed, stressed or lonely. It can also help predict student GPA, researchers said.
Coupled with intervention software, students can track their mental health and academic performance indicators with the goal of improving both.