Anxiety is a dynamic process, and continuous monitoring provides valuable information about its evolution. For this reason, researchers from the Clínic-IDIBAPS, IDIBELL, and CIBSERSAM have developed an application to assess anxiety continuously and in real life through mobile phones. Throughout the six months of the study, the application made it possible to monitor the evolution of anxiety with excellent reliability and validity.
The results of using the application have been published in the journal Assessment. Carles Soriano-Mas, a principal investigator of the IDIBELL Psychiatry and Mental Health group and member of CIBERSAM, has very active participation in the study. It has been coordinated by Joaquim Raduà and Miquel A. Fullana, both IDIBAPS researchers and members of CIBERSAM.
Anxiety is a normal and healthy reaction activated by threat or danger. However, it can develop into an anxiety disorder when this reaction is activated in usually non-threatening/dangerous situations, persist, it could interfere with daily life.
Assess anxiety on an ongoing basis
Until now, to determine if a person has anxiety the health professional asks in an interview and/or through a questionnaire the degree of anxiety in recent weeks. But this type of assessment has two limitations. On the one hand, the person must assess their “average” of anxiety, while anxiety can be variable over time. And on the other hand, the person must trust his memory, which may be affected by current emotions and other factors.
“For some time now, we have known that it is better to measure some emotions at the moment, in the context in which they occur and longitudinally, over several days or weeks,” explains Joaquim Raduà. “Today this can be easily done with a smartphone,” he adds.
A mobile app to track
The researchers asked 99 people to rate their daily anxiety on a scale of 0 to 100 for six months at various times per day. It was done through an application installed on his mobile phone and with some very easy questions, such as “what anxiety are you feeling right now“.
The analysis of the use of the application shows that it was very well accepted and followed by the participants. “Most of the participants answered questions about their anxiety several times a day with their smartphone and, most of them did it regularly during the 6 months of the study,” says Miquel A. Fullana.
The application showed excellent reliability (consistency). In addition, results show that the anxiety measured with the mobile phone was related to the anxiety measured with other methods such as the questionnaire. But “the measures of anxiety at the moment, obtained with the mobile phone, provided extra information. Therefore, with this information we could predict the patients that would have anxiety in the future”, points out Carles Soriano.
Thus, studies combining longitudinal assessments of mobile anxiety with other assessment methods deserve further investigation and may offer new insights into human anxiety.
The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).