Apple Watch Could Gain New Health Prediction Capabilities

The Apple Watch can accurately predict the stress level of its wearer, a recent study suggests, bolstering the device's health detection credentials.

apple watch ecg wrist
The finding comes from a study conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Using the ECG sensor introduced on the Apple Watch Series 4, the researchers found that there was a close association between ECG data, including heart acceleration and deceleration capacity, and participants' reported stress levels at the time the readings were taken. Machine learning algorithms were then developed using this information to create a prediction model.

The stress models are said to have a "high level of precision," but lower recall, using Apple Watch Series 6 models on participants. The study concludes that the Apple Watch has "promising" potential for stress prediction, and proposes that since the device collects additional health information such as sleep and activity information, even more data points could be integrated into stress models to increase their predictive accuracy.

The researchers postulate that the Apple Watch could be used to aid mental health care, offering activities such as breathing exercises to offset stress signals, responding early to changes in mental health. Competing devices from Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin have offered a stress score feature for some time, but Apple has yet to implement such a feature in its Health app.

Health is expected to be one of Apple's main focuses at this year's Worldwide Developer's Conference in June, with a new mood tracking app, a Health app redesign and debut on the iPad, and more on the horizon. With only minor hardware upgrades expected for the next Apple Watch models, Apple could look to add features like stress detection via a future software update to continue advancing the device.