Woman with hand over head

AI helps to detect signs of anxiety

Image credit: Tinnakorn Jorruang/Dreamstime

Researchers have utilised artificial intelligence (AI) to detect behavioural signs of anxiety with over 90 per cent accuracy.

The research conducted by a team at Simon Fraser University in Canada and the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi in Pakistan suggests that AI shows strong potential in future applications for addressing mental health and wellbeing.

“In the two years since the onset of Covid-19, and one climate disaster after another, more and more people are experiencing anxiety,” said visiting professor and social psychologist Gulnaz Anjum. “Our research appears to show that AI could provide a highly reliable measurement for recognising the signs that someone is anxious.”

Anjum and collaborators Nida Saddaf Khan and Sayeed Ghani from IBA Karachi collected an extensive range of data from adult participants for their Human Activity Recognition (HAR) study. Participants performed a series of activities in a specific order while wearing sensors that recorded their movements.

The team created a dataset of activities of typical anxiety-displaying behaviours for the sensors to detect, including idle sitting, nail-biting, knuckle cracking and hand tapping. Their behaviours were then analysed using deep-learning algorithms and computational hybrid models.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), anxiety disorder (AD) is the most common form of mental disorder and impacts 30 per cent of the adult population at some point in their lives. The researchers suggest AI could help in the analysis, diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of psychological disorders such as AD.

“We’re hopeful that as more work is done to develop this method, we can help to provide more accurate data for clinical research and practitioners,” Anjum explained. “Our goal with this research is to expand horizons for the identification of anxiety disorders and ultimately, the improvement of people’s mental health.”

Khan said the rapid development in AI and sensor technology has made it possible to access and process the data related to mental, emotional and behaviour disorders. “It can be further researched and explored to understand unspoken behaviours and improve mental health at large,” she added.

Meanwhile, Ghani believes, “there is a tremendous opportunity for the healthcare industry to benefit from the applications of AI,” and that their research in using motion sensors for detecting anxiety-related behaviours is an example of what is possible.

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