A Thorough Examination of Morning Activity Patterns in Adults with Arthritis and Healthy Controls Using Actigraphy Data

Digit Biomark. 2020 Sep 23;4(3):78-88. doi: 10.1159/000509724. eCollection 2020 Sep-Dec.


Background: Wearable sensors allow researchers to remotely capture digital health data, including physical activity, which may identify digital biomarkers to differentiate healthy and clinical cohorts. To date, research has focused on high-level data (e.g., overall step counts) which may limit our insights to whether people move differently, rather than how they move differently.

Objective: This study therefore aimed to use actigraphy data to thoroughly examine activity patterns during the first hours following waking in arthritis patients (n = 45) and healthy controls (n = 30).

Methods: Participants wore an Actigraph GT9X Link for 28 days. Activity counts were analysed and compared over varying epochs, ranging from 15 min to 4 h, starting with waking in the morning. The sum, and a measure of rate of change of cumulative activity in the period immediately after waking (area under the curve [AUC]) for each time period, was calculated for each participant, each day, and individual and group means were calculated. Two-tailed independent t tests determined differences between the groups.

Results: No differences were seen for summed activity counts across any time period studied. However, differences were noted in the AUC analysis for the discrete measures of relative activity. Specifically, within the first 15, 30, 45, and 60 min following waking, the AUC for activity counts was significantly higher in arthritis patients compared to controls, particularly at the 30 min period (t = -4.24, p = 0.0002). Thus, while both cohorts moved the same amount, the way in which they moved was different.

Conclusion: This study is the first to show that a detailed analysis of actigraphy variables could identify activity pattern changes associated with arthritis, where the high-level daily summaries did not. Results suggest discrete variables derived from raw data may be useful to help identify clinical cohorts and should be explored further to determine if they may be effective clinical biomarkers.

Keywords: Actigraphy; Arthritis; Digital biomarkers; Remote monitoring.