Apple unveils mental health tracking app
Apple has released an updated and more robust health app that aims to help users with their mental health and even help prevent myopia, the tech giant announced Monday.
Apple’s iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch will now offer features that enable users to record their transient emotions and daily mood states, gain meaningful insights, and seamlessly access evaluations and resources. The devices will also have new vision health features that promote habits that can mitigate the risk of nearsightedness.
“Our goal is to empower people to take charge of their own health journey. With these innovative new features, we’re expanding the comprehensive range of health and wellness tools that we offer our users across iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch,” said Sumbul Desai, M.D., Apple’s vice president of Health, in the press release.
“Mental health and vision health are important, but often overlooked, and we’re excited to introduce features that offer valuable new insights to provide users with an even better understanding of their health. These insights help support users in their daily decisions and offer more informed conversations with their doctors.”
The Health app in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, along with the Mindfulness app in watchOS 10, will give users the option to reflect and record their emotions. Users can choose from a range of emotions spanning from “extremely pleasant” to “highly unpleasant” and identify the aspects, such as Travel or Family, that are having the most substantial influence on their emotions. They can then identify related feelings, such as Grateful or Worried.
By using the Health app, users can access meaningful insights to discern potential contributors to their mental state, whether these factors are related to associations or lifestyle elements like sleep and exercise. Users can utilize these insights to enhance their overall health management.
“Identifying our feelings has been shown to help us manage difficult emotions, appreciate positive moments, and improve wellbeing,” said UCLA professor of psychology and psychiatry Dr. Michelle Craske in the press release.
Depression and anxiety evaluations commonly used in clinical settings are also accessible in the Health app so users can see their risk level and connect to mental healthcare providers in their region. This innovative feature is a monumental step towards addressing mental health concerns at an early stage and normalizing conversations about mental health in general.
Apple also aims to tackle issues such as depression and myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, by promoting outdoor activities. Using an ambient light sensor, the Apple Watch with watchOS 10 can measure how many hours spent outdoors.
The International Myopia Institute (IMI) recommends children spend a minimum of 80-120 minutes a day outside to prevent myopia. Currently, myopia is the most common cause of vision impairment and is expected to affect 50 billion people by 2050.
In addition to spending more time outdoors, the IMI also recommends increasing the distance at which children read or view a tablet to avoid myopia.
The Screen Distance feature will allow parents to monitor how close their children are looking at their tablets. The technology leverages the same TrueDepth camera that facilitates Face ID on iPhone and iPad, nudging users to position their device at a greater distance if they’ve held it closer than 12 inches for a prolonged duration. Screen Distance can prompt younger users to adopt healthy viewing habits that may decrease their chances of developing myopia, while also allowing adult users the chance to mitigate digital eye strain.
Privacy at the core
Apple promises that their new features are “grounded in science with privacy at their core” and “the Health app provides users with granular control over the types of data they share and who they share it with.”
The commitment to privacy enables another one of Apple’s newest features: HealthKit. With HealthKit, fitness app users can share health data with health app developers. The privacy statement promises a smooth and secure transfer of information and will allow other health apps to customize treatment and fitness plans to the user.
The company’s continual investment in health-tech not only reinforces the necessity of prioritizing personal health but also points to the future of health management, where technology plays an increasingly significant role.
With these new features, Apple continues to redefine the boundaries of what health tech can achieve. By providing comprehensive, personalized health insights, the company empowers users to take control of their health, encouraging a proactive approach to wellness that could ultimately contribute to longer, healthier lives.