Introducing the new smartphone app that can read your mind...kind of

Physical health apps are all the rage at the moment, as illustrated by Apple's health push on iOS 8 in the form of its HealthKit platform.

Now, thanks to a team from Dartmouth College, mental health is also getting a look-in. Led by computer science professor Andrew Campbell, the group has created an app called StudentLife that collects and analyses various smartphone data to gauge how you're feeling.

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The app monitors various user behaviours, such as how long and how often they talk on the phone, various information related to sleep patterns, as well as tapping into smartphone features, including the accelerometer, to monitor movement patterns and the GPS to monitor the length of time they spend in a certain location.

48 students tested the app over a 10-week period, having completed a physical and mental health survey prior to the test to establish a baseline, and then filling out smaller daily surveys to monitor mood and stress levels.

The results showed that, in general, more sleep and higher levels of social interaction lowers the likelihood of depression. Interestingly, social interaction also seems to have a stronger correlation to academic performance than class attendance.

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"What is the impact of stress, mood, workload, sociability, sleep and mental health on academic performance?" said Professor Campbell. "Much of the stress and strain of student life remains hidden. In reality faculty, student deans, clinicians know little about their students in and outside of the classroom.

"Students might know about their own circumstances and patterns but know little about classmates. To shine a light on student life, we developed the first of a kind smartphone app and sensing system to automatically infer human behaviour."