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Chatbots Here Just in Nick of Time?

A growing number of chatbots and voice analysis apps are geared toward improving how we feel. Fast Company reports that chatbots like Woebot and Tess claim to be able to identify the mood or condition of the user, and in many cases can offer advice or suggest therapeutic exercises.

Technological advances like these seem to have arrived just in the nick of time. According to a Chronicle of Higher Education report, suicide is now the second leading killer of college students, after traffic accidents. Since 1999, the overall suicide rate in the U.S. has surged by about 25%.

In 2017, a study of 73 participants who reported at least one symptom of PTSD or depression completed a 12-week field trial with Companion MX, which makes an app that detects changes in moods by analyzing users' voice patterns and levels of activity.

Participants were asked to record an audio diary at least once a week. Their social and physical activity was also tracked via their smartphone. Companion converts voice and activity data into predictions about behavior symptom measures like mood, fatigue, physical isolation, and social isolation.

Not everyone, however, is sold on technological marvels like these for treating issues like depression and addiction. While more research is needed, a review by the American Psychological Association of published studies on a number of therapy apps found that while they had a small effect on reducing depression, they have not contributed to reducing suicide rates.

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Title Annotation:ea roundup
Publication:The Journal of Employee Assistance
Date:Apr 1, 2019
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