The promise of digital mood tracking technologies: are we heading on the right track?

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Abstract

The growing understanding that mood disorders are dynamic in nature and fluctuate over variable epochs of time has compelled researchers to develop innovative methods of monitoring mood. Technological advancement now allows for the detection of minute-to-minute changes while also capturing a longitudinal perspective of an individual’s illness. Traditionally, assessments of mood have been conducted by means of clinical interviews and paper surveys. However, these methods are often inaccurate due to recall bias and compliance issues, and are limited in their capacity to collect and process data over long periods of time. The increased capability, availability and affordability of digital technologies in recent decades has offered a novel, non-invasive alternative to monitoring mood and emotion in daily life. This paper reviews the emerging literature addressing the use of digital mood tracking technologies, primarily focusing on the strengths and inherent limitations of using these new methods including electronic self-report, behavioural data collection and wearable physiological biosensors. This developing field holds great promise in generating novel insights into the mechanistic processes of mood disorders and improving personalised clinical care. However, further research is needed to validate many of these novel approaches to ensure that these devices are indeed achieving their purpose of capturing changes in mood.

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