Google Partners With University To Study Phones' Effect On Mental Health

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According to The Verge, Google and the University of Oregon have teamed up to study the effects of smartphones on mental health. The researchers will use Google’s Health Studies app to focus on the relationship between phones and wellbeing.

Dr. Nicholas Allen, a professor at the University of Oregon, says their goal is to see how people use their phones and how it can affect their mental health. As Google is one of the most popular online services globally, with billions of active users every day, it’s an ideal company for researchers.

“With today’s smartphones, social media, and bottomless streams of content, many are quick to condemn technology based on their conviction that these products must be bad for mental health and well-being. But focusing only on these potentially harmful effects doesn’t tell the full story. Nor does it help us reap the full benefits these tools have to offer while also managing their risks.” Dr. Allen noted.


Google and the University of Oregon will study phones’ effect on mental health

Google’s Health Studies app will reportedly give a more accurate picture of how people use their smartphones to researchers. In the other methods, people are often asked to track and report their own usage of apps, which might not be quite accurate.

Researchers are also looking to find some missing points, like how using phones can affect the sleep cycle. Moreover, they can involve more people and younger populations in study through partnering with Google and using an app-based approach.

“We’ll recruit a large representative sample and collect direct, objective measures of how people use their phones, with their informed consent,” the research team noted. “We’ll use passive and continuous sensing technology to do this, rather than relying only on self reports.”


Google spokesperson Iz Conroy also responded to the privacy concerns. She says the way this system works is similar to Android’s built-in Digital Wellbeing system. Also, “data is collected separately under transparent research protocols.”

The research team confirms that the results will help companies design better products and shape their policies and education.