When a group of California researchers started a COVID-19 study in 2020 using fitness tracking rings, they didn’t know they would make a leap forward for an entirely different condition.
In the earliest days of the pandemic, more than 20,000 people from 106 different countries signed up to participate in the TemPredict Study from the University of California, San Francisco, according to a Feb. 5 paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The researchers set out to learn if off-the-shelf fitness and health trackers worn on the body could be used to detect the early symptoms of COVID-19, according to the study.
All participants, 20,880, bought and wore an Oura Ring, a ring that senses such data as heart rate, body temperature, oxygen levels and other fitness indicators, the researchers said.
Over the course of seven months, the participants submitted their vital signs collected by the ring and stored in a phone app, and also self-reported their emotions and mental health in daily surveys.
Could the ring predict COVID-19? Yes, the researchers found. The ring picked up signs the participants may have been infected on average 2.75 days before they tested positive, according to the study.
But that wasn’t the only data that stood out to the research team.
The study found that participants with higher body temperatures also reported higher rates of depressive symptoms and feelings of depression using temperatures taken while users were awake.
“Specifically, these analyses replicated prior results showing that daytime self-reported body temperature was associated with greater depressive symptoms and build on one prior study showing that the asleep-awake body temperature difference was more than twice as large among controls relative to individuals with depression,” the researchers said in the study.
While it’s not clear if poor body temperature regulation is a symptom of depression or vice versa, the researchers said people with depression overall had a change to their natural immune-based feedback system.
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