The University of Oregon’s Center for Digital Mental Health is launching a new digital wellbeing study that collects data using “passive and continuous sensing technology” on your Android and Fitbit via the Google Health Studies app. 

Update 5/26: Version 2.0 of Google Health Studies is widely available with the Digital Wellbeing Study now live.

  1. Complete a survey: Answer one-time questions about yourself and your health. Estimated time: 15-25 minutes
  2. Give daily update: Report how you’re feeling 4x/day for weeks 1 & 4, once per day for weeks 2 & 3. Estimated time: 1-5 minutes/day
  3. Keep the app installed: Allow your device to process and submit aggregated results for the duration of the study.
  4. Wear your Fitbit device: If you have a Fitbit and choose to share this data, please wear it for the study duration.

On the privacy front:

  • Data collected from you will be encrypted.
  • Only relevant statistics are uploaded to the server.
  • Data is not sold to third parties or used by Google for advertising purposes.
  • Participation is voluntary. You can withdraw at any time.

Technological developments throughout history have had both benefits and risks. We urgently need high-quality research to identify which use patterns are associated with benefits versus risks, and who is likely to experience harmful versus beneficial outcomes. 

Original 5/23: In collecting this data, the researchers are turning to technology and the multitude of sensors on our modern devices instead of just “heavily subjective” self-reported questionnaires. Using the Google Health Studies app, which was launched in 2020 to allow for privacy-conscious surveys, the University of Oregon will “recruit a large representative sample and collect direct, objective measures of how people use their phones, with their informed consent.”

The study will also use participants’ phones to directly measure many of the well-established building blocks of wellbeing, such as sleep and physical activity.

This study is open to adults based in the US that have an Android phone and “can complete daily activities without assistance.” It takes four weeks. Fitbit users can optionally add relevant step count and physical activity data, with the company possibly analyzing this data to “improve certain Fitbit features.” After joining, it takes a month to complete and takes up about 15 minutes of your time every week.

The data collected will be managed according to strict ethical standards and will only be used for research and to inform better products. The data will never be sold or used for advertising.

The digital wellbeing study will appear in the Google Health Studies app on Friday, May 27.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com