Analysis shows wearable data could help identify mental health conditions in diabetic populations

By Laura Lovett
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A recent data analysis by Evidation Health found that by using wearables, researchers could track activity characteristics associated with co-morbid mental health illness symptoms among people with diabetes. 

“Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing mental health illnesses than those without diabetes. This increased risk is partially due to the fact that diabetes is a difficult disease to manage,” Shefali Kumar, senior associate health outcomes research at Evidation Health, wrote to MobiHealthNews in an email. “It requires individuals with diabetes to watch what they are eating, measure their blood glucose multiple types a day, take medications, etc.  Often individuals with diabetes become frustrated with or discouraged by their diabetes management routine, and this may lead to depression and other mental health illnesses. There are a number of other reasons that may explain why this higher risk exists, such as how the body responds to different blood glucose levels, and how high/low blood glucose levels impact mood.”

Kumar said that individuals with mental health illnesses (MHI) are also at a higher risk for developing diabetes than those without. This is because MHI is associated with unhealthy eating habits, less physical activity and a potential increase in weight. 

The analysis, which was complied by using data from general Achievement use, found that diabetes patients that self-reported symptoms of MHI walk on average 1,469 steps less per day than those without MHI symptoms. The mean daily steps taken by diabetes patients with no MHI symptoms was 7,032, compared to patients with MHI symptoms who walked 5,663 steps a day. 

Participants with MHI symptoms had a lower frequency of days with high activity levels and more frequent days with lower activity levels than their counterparts without MHI symptoms. There was little difference in sleep between the two groups; patients with MHI symptoms slept an average of 6.48 hours and those with MHI symptoms slept an average of 6.72 hours. 

The analysis looked at survey results from 1,330 participants with diabetes. Three hundred and thirty-six or 25.3 percent reported having some MHI in the last year. Of that 77 percent reported having anxiety symptoms and 23.7 percent reported having some form of depression. 

The analysis sought to understand whether there are significant digital activity tracker-based behavior characteristics that can help identify individuals with MHI symptoms in a population of individuals with diabetes. 

It concludes that digital trackers could help identify behavioral traits associated with self-reported symptoms of MHI in a population of individuals with diabetes.  

“Traditionally, clinicians use self-reported data to screen and measure the progression of MHI,” the analysis stated. “Digital activity tracker-based behavioral data may enrich and supplement this self-reported data, and can potentially help detect MHI and track MHI symptoms.”

The next step is to do more research, said the company. 

“The most immediate next steps of this study would include conducting additional research that focuses on detecting behavioral markers of onset of and progression of MHI symptoms in individuals with diabetes as soon as they begin to develop,” said Kumar.  “We would want to look at a group of individuals with diabetes but no MHIs, and follow the cohort as some individuals begin to develop MHIs. We would look at their behavioral data to see if we can detect behavioral patterns that are associated with the onset and progression of the MHI.”