Last Updated on 02 Jul 2024

Depressive symptom screening in elderly by passive sensing data of smartphones or smartwatches: a systematic review.



The elderly is commonly susceptible to depression, the symptoms for which may overlap with natural aging or other illnesses, and therefore miss being captured by routine screening questionnaires. Passive sensing data have been promoted as a tool for depressive symptoms detection though there is still limited evidence on its usage in the elderly. Therefore, this study aims to review current knowledge on the use of passive sensing data via smartphones and smartwatches in depressive symptom screening for the elderly.


The search of literature was performed in PubMed, IEEE Xplore digital library, and PsycINFO. Literature investigating the use of passive sensing data to screen, monitor, and/or predict depressive symptoms in the elderly (aged 60 and above) via smartphones and/or wrist-worn wearables was included for initial screening. Studies in English from international journals published between January 2012 to September 2022 were included. The reviewed studies were further analyzed by a narrative analysis.


The majority of 21 included studies were conducted in Western countries with a few in Asia and Australia. Most studies adopted a cohort study design (n = 12), followed by cross-sectional design (n = 7) and a case-control design (n = 2). The most popular passive sensing data was related to sleep and physical activity using an actigraphy. Sleep characteristics, such as prolonged wakefulness after sleep onset, along with lower levels of physical activity, exhibited a significant association with depression. However, cohort studies expressed concerns regarding data quality stemming from incomplete follow-up and potential confounding effects.


Passive sensing data, such as sleep, and physical activity parameters should be promoted for depressive symptoms detection. However, the validity, reliability, feasibility, and privacy concerns still need further exploration.

International Journal
PLOS ONE 2024;19:e0304845.
Adhibai R , Kosiyaporn H , Markchang K , Nasueb S , Waleewong O , Suphanchaimat R
Kosiyaporn H.