BACKGROUND: Most smartphones and wearables are currently equipped with location sensing (using GPS and mobile network information), which enables continuous location tracking of their users. Several studies have reported that various mobility metrics, as well as home stay, that is, the amount of time an individual spends at home in a day, are associated with symptom severity in people with major depressive disorder (MDD). Owing to the use of small and homogeneous cohorts of participants, it is uncertain whether the findings reported in those studies generalize to a broader population of individuals with MDD symptoms. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to examine the relationship between the overall severity of depressive symptoms, as assessed by the 8-item Patient Health Questionnaire, and median daily home stay over the 2 weeks preceding the completion of a questionnaire in individuals with MDD. METHODS: We used questionnaire and geolocation data of 164 participants with MDD collected in the observational Remote Assessment of Disease and Relapse-Major Depressive Disorder study. The participants were recruited from three study sites: King's College London in the United Kingdom (109/164, 66.5%); Vrije Universiteit Medisch Centrum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (17/164, 10.4%); and Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red in Barcelona, Spain (38/164, 23.2%). We used a linear regression model and a resampling technique (n=100 draws) to investigate the relationship between home stay and the overall severity of MDD symptoms. Participant age at enrollment, gender, occupational status, and geolocation data quality metrics were included in the model as additional explanatory variables. The 95% 2-sided CIs were used to evaluate the significance of model variables. RESULTS: Participant age and severity of MDD symptoms were found to be significantly related to home stay, with older (95% CI 0.161-0.325) and more severely affected individuals (95% CI 0.015-0.184) spending more time at home. The association between home stay and symptoms severity appeared to be stronger on weekdays (95% CI 0.023-0.178, median 0.098; home stay: 25th-75th percentiles 17.8-22.8, median 20.9 hours a day) than on weekends (95% CI -0.079 to 0.149, median 0.052; home stay: 25th-75th percentiles 19.7-23.5, median 22.3 hours a day). Furthermore, we found a significant modulation of home stay by occupational status, with employment reducing home stay (employed participants: 25th-75th percentiles 16.1-22.1, median 19.7 hours a day; unemployed participants: 25th-75th percentiles 20.4-23.5, median 22.6 hours a day). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that home stay is associated with symptom severity in MDD and demonstrate the importance of accounting for confounding factors in future studies. In addition, they illustrate that passive sensing of individuals with depression is feasible and could provide clinically relevant information to monitor the course of illness in patients with MDD.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28095
Pages (from-to)e28095
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2022


  • GPS
  • home stay
  • major depressive disorder
  • mobile phone
  • PHQ-8
  • smartphone

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