Apple’s iPhone May Soon Be Able to Detect Depression and Cognitive Decline
Apple Grows its Healthcare Offerings
Apple (AAPL) is aiming to add to its growing portfolio of healthcare devices and digital tools, developing technology to diagnose mental health issues including depression and cognitive decline. The iPhone maker is using sensors to track physical activity, sleep patterns, mobility, and other activities to create algorithms which can detect signs of depression or cognitive decline.
Apple has entered a number of partnerships as it works to grow its healthcare offerings. Apple is studying stress, depression, and anxiety with help from UCLA and cognitive decline with drug company Biogen (BIIB).
Digital Mental Health Is a Growing Market
Digital mental health presents a big opportunity for Apple and its partners. The pandemic caused many people to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. This has led to more demand for mental health services, including digital help. Meanwhile, cognitive impairment impacts about five million Americans and there is growing demand for digital solutions to this also.
Apple’s previous healthcare efforts have been focused around its Apple Watch, but for mental health and cognitive impairment, the iPhone will be center stage. Apple hopes to be able to detect these mental conditions, which impact millions of people, through iPhones.
This initiative has already raised concerns about privacy. Apple will likely only keep data on phones, not on Apple servers.
Biogen Hopes for iPhone Feature
Biogen and Apple have launched a two-year study to track cognitive function and spot mild cognitive impairment. The study, which started in January 2021, follows roughly 20,000 people—50% of which are at risk for cognitive decline. Biogen is hoping that the collaboration will result in an iPhone feature which can detect impairment early on and encourage people to seek treatment sooner. Biogen’s Aduhelm drug, which costs around $56,000 per year, treats people with early-stage Alzheimer’s.
The mental health market was huge prior to the pandemic and now it is even bigger. Tens of millions of people suffer from depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. It will be interesting to see what comes of the iPhone maker’s research and partnerships with UCLA and Biogen.
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