In the making: stress-measuring device



Can you imagine yourself wearing a device that can measure your stress levels? A device that can tell you to stop, slow down, and take a deep breath? A device that may be able to prevent an impending heart attack or stroke?

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) were just testing a prototype the other day. The ETH researcerhs, together with psychologists from the University of Zurich tested the device on 30 volunteers – students who were about to take a rather difficult Math exam. The prototype performed rather well, with an estimated 83% success rate of recognizing “stressed individuals”.

So how does this device work? The device works in different ways and measures several parameters, namely:

  • Heart rate
  • Respiration rate
  • Levels of the stress hormones cortisol in the saliva
  • Conductivity of the skin

Heart and respiration rates increase when people are under pressure. The body then produces increased levels of cortisol. Sweating of the palm and the soles of the feet occur, leading to increased conductivity. With these measurements, the device can tell you how stressed you are.

The performance of the prototype was definitely better than a device installed in the students’ chairs which measured the movement of the seated person with the hypothesis that the more movement, the higher is the stress level. The rate of success of the chair-attached device is only 73%.

There is a great potential for an effective stress-measuring device in terms of health care and financial xxx. The currently prototype being tested is kind of bulky with lots of cables and electrodes attached to it. The researchers, however, hope to make the device smaller through miniaturization and wireless technology so that it would be small enough to wear like a watch around the wrist or inserted in your socks.

Measuring stress levels is very important as research evidence has shown stress to be linked to cardiovascular as well as mental health. A small device that can measure different parameters related to stress can help people keep their stress levels under control comparable to how diabetes patients keep their glycemic levels under control by monitoring blood sugar levels. In doing so, stress-related heart attacks and strokes can be prevented and minimized. Do you think we will finally see such a device in the market? Let’s wait and see in 2 to 3 years’ time.

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