Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh are studying the effectiveness of a wrist-mounted instrument for measuring psychosocial stress exposure during the course of daily life.
"We want to capture a slice of life in people's daily routine," said Pitt Professor Thomas Kamarck, who is leading the research team. "We hope that these new tools will allow us to do so while minimizing disruptions imposed by the act of measurement."
While previous studies show those who report stressful lifestyles develop higher rates of a variety of illnesses, measuring exposure to stress is problematic.
In the new study, participants will be outfitted with an eWatch — which senses sound, motion, temperature and other factors. It will also ask participants questions about their activities and record their answers.
Use of the eWatch will not only help target environmental data present during highly stressful situations, but also improve the eWatch's future functionality.
First developed in 2004 as a class project at Carnegie Mellon, the eWatch has been the subject of a number of studies in which it has shown itself capable of monitoring behaviors and conditions.
"This new study is important in eWatch's development because it requires that we simplify the device's operation," Siewiorek said. "The eWatch must be simple enough to be used by anyone who wears it, even those who are not technically savvy. And we need to develop manuals and written procedures that will make it possible for other research groups to use it to gather data for their own studies."
The joint research team has received a $426,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the first year of a four-year project, which is part of a larger NIH initiative to study environmental factors people encounter every day that may increase their risk of certain diseases.
In addition to Siewiorek and Smailagic, Kamarck's collaborators include Pitt Psychology Professor Saul Shiffman and Pitt Research Associate Barbara Anderson.