Digital Mood Tracking Technologies: Improved Care in Patients With Mood Disorders

man on his smartphone
man on his smartphone
Smartphone and tracking devices can equip clinicians with a better understanding of mood states and behavior.

The use of smartphone and biosensor tracking devices can help provide clinicians with a broader understanding of mood states and behavior and may improve the clinical care of patients with mood disorders, according to the results of a recent review on technologic advances published in Evidence-Based Mental Health.1

Historically, mood assessments have been conducted by means of clinical interviews and paper surveys. These methods are often inaccurate as a result of recall bias and compliance issues, however, and there is no way to collect and process data over long periods of time. The authors of the current review conducted a literature search using a variety of databases and reviewed citations in the bibliographies of related articles and review papers from the past 5 years.

In recent years, the increased capability, availability, and affordability of digital technologies — in the form of computers, mobile phones, and programmable watches and fitness tools — have offered clinicians a novel, noninvasive alternative for monitoring a person’s mood and emotions during the course of his or her daily life. With the use of smartphones, researchers can administer questionnaires electronically and elicit participants’ responses immediately.

The 3 types of data that may be useful in mood disorder research include electronic self-reports, behavioral data, and physiologic measures. Concerns exist with respect to patient adherence to both active and passive digital monitoring programs over the long term, particularly when periods of remission occur. Electronic ecological momentary assessment is one method that has proved valuable in the field of mood disorder research.2 Some inherent limitations with the use of ecological momentary assessment include recall issues and sole reliance on patient self-reports.

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“Smartphone and other mobile devices have become interlaced with our daily lives,” the study authors concluded. “With continued multidisciplinary…and ever-increasing technological advances, the use of smartphone and biosensor tracking will not only provide a deeper understanding of mood states and behaviour, but can also improve clinical care for patients with mood disorder.”


  1. Malhi GS, Hamilton A, Morris G, Mannie Z, Das P, Outhred T. The promise of digital mood tracking technologies: are we heading on the right track? Evid Based Ment Health. 2017;20(4):102-107.
  2. Moskowitz DS, Young SN. Ecological momentary assessment: what it is and why it is a method of the future in clinical psychopharmacology. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2006;31(1):13-20.