The average amount of time that a person spends browsing through the different smartphone applications has skyrocketed. Researchers are investigating whether they can utilize the data from a smartphone to assess the health of its user.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has revealed that smartphone data can predict whether an individual suffers from depression.

The researchers believe this method is even more successful in diagnosing depression than a self-assessment. Co-author of the study David Mohr claims that the more time an individual spends using his or her phone, the more depressed he is likely to be. The research – which has been published in the Journal of Internet Medical Research -- also linked excessive time spent at home to depression.

During the study, the researchers used Craigslist to recruit 28 people aged between 19 and 58. The team installed location and usage monitoring software on their smartphones. At the start of the study, the subjects asked a set of questions that monitored their depressive symptoms.

For the next two weeks, the software tracked the GPS location of the subject at an interval of every five minutes. In addition, it resularly pinged the smartphone user, asking them about their mood during the day.

The researchers made use of the data -- the GPS location, time spent at each location, frequency of visiting a particular location and the time spent on the phone – to correlate with the depression test scores.

“People who tend to spend more time in just one or two places — like people who stay at home or go to work and go back home — are more likely to have higher depression scores,” concluded the researchers.

In addition, researchers found that depressed people spent around 68 minutes per day using their phone while the people without depression spent only 17 minutes on an average.