Mood-forecasting tech could help stop bad moods, and even suicides, before they occur

Wearable devices that could identify when an at-risk individual that might experience suicidal thoughts a day in advance and alert the person and their trusted contacts, might soon be a reality.

Fitness trackers and other electronic devices already monitor our physical activity, and scientists say similar technology can be used to track our psychological health in ways never before possible. New apps and wearables could soon help preserve our mental well-being by spotting early signs of emotional distress.

Psychiatrists rely on patients to tell doctors how they feel as the main input for their decisions. Mood forecasting technology could give doctors more reliable information.

Research shows that changes in our mental state, including sadness or anxiety, affects our bodies in discernible ways. Mood forecasting exploits the connection between the mind and the body. Heart rate, pulse, perspiration and skin temperature are all affected by emotional arousal. Additionally, the pace at which we text, call and post on social media all change with our moods.

Academic researchers and private companies are working to develop devices and programs that not only detect and interpret our biomarkers but also respond with helpful advice. For example, a mood-forecasting device or app might urge someone to call a friend when they have cut back on texting, or take a walk when the device hasn’t registered motion for several hours. Alternatively, shifting biomarkers or digital behavior could be communicated directly to an individual’s doctor, who could then intervene as necessary.

Why it’s hot: Mood forecasting could prevent bad moods, emotional suffering and potentially dangerous situations before they occur. Although there is some apprehension around the idea of collecting and transmitting such intimate personal data, the positive effects of such technology could be monumental.