Using apple watch ECG data for heart rate variability monitoring and stress prediction: A pilot study

Front Digit Health. 2022 Dec 9:4:1058826. doi: 10.3389/fdgth.2022.1058826. eCollection 2022.


Stress is an increasingly prevalent mental health condition that can have serious effects on human health. The development of stress prediction tools would greatly benefit public health by allowing policy initiatives and early stress-reducing interventions. The advent of mobile health technologies including smartphones and smartwatches has made it possible to collect objective, real-time, and continuous health data. We sought to pilot the collection of heart rate variability data from the Apple Watch electrocardiograph (ECG) sensor and apply machine learning techniques to develop a stress prediction tool. Random Forest (RF) and Support Vector Machines (SVM) were used to model stress based on ECG measurements and stress questionnaire data collected from 33 study participants. Data were stratified into socio-demographic classes to further explore our prediction model. Overall, the RF model performed slightly better than SVM, with results having an accuracy within the low end of state-of-the-art. Our models showed specificity in their capacity to assess "no stress" states but were less successful at capturing "stress" states. Overall, the results presented here suggest that, with further development and refinement, Apple Watch ECG sensor data could be used to develop a stress prediction tool. A wearable device capable of continuous, real-time stress monitoring would enable individuals to respond early to changes in their mental health. Furthermore, large-scale data collection from such devices would inform public health initiatives and policies.

Keywords: Apple watch; ECG; mHealth; machine learning; mobile; stress; wearable.