Can your Apple Watch detect stress? New study says 'yes'

 Apple Watch Series 9 on a user's wrist.
Apple Watch Series 9 on a user's wrist.

While stress is useful for reacting to external circumstances, it can also be damaging to our health. Being able to track our stress and find ways to reduce it is beneficial in the long term to our health and our mental states.

A new Canadian study from the University of Waterloo was created to determine if the Apple Watch can detect and track stress, as shared by BGR.

According to the study, as it currently stands, the Apple Watch can detect states of no stress, but struggle at capturing stress states. The study authors do suggest that the electrocardiograph (ECG) sensor in the Apple Watch “could be used to develop a stress prediction tool.”

The study went into the experiment with the idea that the ECG sensor could be used to track stress and create a stress prediction tool utilizing the continuous health data from the Apple Watch.

The sample is small, but the study gave 33 subjects an iPhone 7 and an Apple Watch Series 6 that supported ECG monitoring. The participants were instructed to collect ECG data six times a day, three hours apart. They had to take a stress questionnaire before each collection. The study period lasted for two weeks.

“Our models showed specificity in their capacity to assess “no stress” states but were less successful at capturing “stress” states. Overall, the results presented here suggest that, with further development and refinement, Apple Watch ECG sensor data could be used to develop a stress prediction tool.”

The study mentions that a majority of the participants were white females, and suggested that socioeconomic factors might play a role in stress tracking. Though, the Apple Watch can also track sleep patterns and physical activity which could improve stress tracking.

The authors concluded that with further development and refinement, an Apple Watch could be used to develop a stress prediction tool.

The Apple Watch 10 is expected to come out later this year with an updated design. Because of the ongoing dispute around the blood oxygen sensor, it’ll be interesting to see what health monitors the next-generation of Apple Watch will feature. There are rumors that it will monitor sleep apnea and hypertension.

It should be noted that Fitbit and Garmin currently offer stress monitoring though through different sensors and tools. Fitbit tracks heart rate variability and uses EDA scores while the Garmin uses heart rate data to determine the space between each heartbeat and determines stress from there.

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