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Google wants to know the impact of phones on your mental health

Google wants to know the impact of phones on your mental health
The use of smartphones all over the world has increased exponentially in the last few years. While there are numerous benefits of having almost everything at the tap of the screen, it does have its fair share of downsides as well. Google is conducting research to find out the deep impact of phones on mental health. “We believe that technology can help bridge many of these gaps and improve research on digital wellbeing. That’s why the Center for Digital Mental Health at the University of Oregon is partnering with Google to launch this landmark study,” noted Dr Nicholas Allen, professor, Center for Digital Mental Health, University of Oregon, in a blog.

Why the need for new research?

Allen believes that most scientific research on digital wellbeing has relied on self-reported questionnaires, which are heavily subjective. “Not only do we need new research that focuses on both the benefits and risks of technology, but we also need to rethink what we ask people, who we include in this research and how we work together to use the findings,” wrote Allen on the blog. To make sure research and potential solutions support everyone, Allen says that it’s critical for new research methodologies to incorporate data from people historically underrepresented in health research. Studies might miss certain patterns of behaviour that reveal complex relationships between device use and wellbeing — like the relationship between screen time and sleep.

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When will the research work begin?

The study will take four weeks to complete and is open to adults based in the US who use an Android phone and can complete daily activities without assistance. Participants will also have the option to add relevant Fitbit data, including step count and physical activity. Those interested can sign up for the study by downloading the Google Health Studies app from May 27.
The data collected will be managed according to strict ethical standards and will only be used for research and to inform better products. The data will never be sold or used for advertising, adds Allen in the blog.

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