Smart Devices and Wearable Technologies: Monitoring Mental Well-Being At Your Fingertips


Mental health conditions are prevalent on a global scale, with 1 in every 8 people living with a mental disorder, and among them, anxiety and depressive disorders are the most common. Acute stress is also becoming a more common issue in the modern world caused by physical and emotional stressors, which can increase risks for certain diseases such as cardiovascular conditions. 

With the heightened incidence of mental health issues, researchers are trying to create more compact, portable, and accurate technology to monitor stress and mental health status. Hence, there has been an increase in the production of smart devices and wearable technologies that help monitor mental health and stress for detection and ensuing management of the said conditions. 

A 2021 review from PubMed Central examined the types of current smart devices and wearable technologies used to detect or monitor mental health issues such as depression, stress, and anxiety and the physiological process(es) linked to their detection.

Wearables and Physiological Processes

The 2021 review of 21 studies found that devices could detect stress and anxiety symptoms by monitoring heart rate and breathing. The crucial finding of the study also includes the type of wearable device, the physiological process used to detect anxiety, depression, and stress, and whether the device is commercially available.

From the 21 studies reviewed, several wearables that detect stress, anxiety, and depression were identified. Some of these devices and the physiological process(es) they use in detection are as follows:

  • Five wearables used heart rate variability (HRV) to detect stress, two measured HRV and electroencephalogram (EEG) simultaneously to detect stress and anxiety, and two measured fluctuations in HR to detect stress. 
  • Three wearables measured either galvanic skin response (GSR) or electrodermal activity (EDA) to detect stress, and one device measured skin conductance and HR to detect stress. 
  • Other wearables measured podometry using a podometer to detect depression and recorded brain oxy-hemodynamic responses using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).
  • GSR, skin temperature, ECG, and respiratory rate are measured by a multiparametric garment to detect stress in soldiers. 
  • Lastly, two latest wearable devices measured respiratory rate to detect stress, but one study reported too few results.

Detection of Mental Health Conditions Through Wearables

After a thorough assessment of 21 studies, the researchers found that several wearable technologies exist in the market which helps detects certain medical conditions, including stress, depression, and anxiety.


The review found that devices could detect stress and anxiety symptoms by monitoring heart rate and breathing. Some of these devices include wearable EEG and ECG such as:

  • Muse™ headband – wearable device in the form of a headband that detects the brain’s electrical rhythms (EEG).
  • Lowdown Focus glasses – a pair of smart sunglasses that aims to help you get your brain’s attention on demand by using brain-sensing technology from Muse. 
  • Vital Jacket – a device that continuously monitors heart rate and electrocardiogram (ECG) waves of the wearer using microelectronics embedded into a T-shirt.
  • Polar V800 Heart Rate Monitor – a device primarily made to monitor training sessions for athletes. It monitors the wearer’s heart rate, speed, distance, route, and even the smallest activities.
  • Mindo-4S Jellyfish – a wearable forehead EEG device.

A 2019 study suggested that wearable brain-sensing devices can potentially help promote objective response to stress by increasing one’s knowledge of dysfunctional hyperactivation’s EEG signature. Cardiac activity has also been used as a common objective physiological measure of anxiety.

Respiratory Rate

Several wearables are used to measure respiratory rate and its variability to detect stress and anxiety symptoms, including:

  • Spire Stonea wearable device that measures the movement of the torso or abdomen through respiration sensors which then sends the data to the connected phone app for analysis.

Integumentary System

Wearables and devices are also used to measure integumentary systems to detect stress and anxiety, including skin conductance and temperature. Some of these wearables are:

  • Wearable Q-sensor (Affectiva) – a wearable biometric sensor that tracks user excitement, engagement, stress, and anxiety.
  • Motion Logger – a logging sensor designed to measure the physical activity of an object it is attached to.

Based on the features of the wearables and devices mentioned above and the physiological processes they measure, the researchers concluded that HRV could be considered the most useful physiological measure for detecting stress and anxiety.

Key Takeaway

With the continuous increase in the incidence of mental illness, the demand for developing technology that can help people deal with mental health conditions is on the rise. 

Much work is being put into developing new technology, such as wearables, to detect potential mental health reactions conveniently and faster. The devices and the new technology offer many benefits, including cost reduction and improved accessibility of mental care.

However, people who decide to use wearables should still be mindful of the pros and cons before using them as a mental health aid or overall method of care. 

Journal Reference

Hickey, B. A., Chalmers, T., Newton, P., Lin, C.-T., Sibbritt, D., McLachlan, C. S., Clifton-Bligh, R., Morley, J., & Lal, S. (2021). Smart Devices and wearable technologies to detect and monitor mental health conditions and stress: A systematic review. Sensors, 21(10), 3461. 

Related Content
© 2023 KellySearch