UCLA Launches Innovative Mental Health Study with Apple

Campus Update

Chancellor Block sent the following message to the UCLA campus community.

Dear Bruin Community:

I am excited to announce a collaboration that pairs UCLA, one of the nation’s top public research universities, with Apple, one of the world’s leading technology companies, to help address one of society’s biggest problems.

The UCLA Depression Grand Challenge, whose work is more critical than ever as we all cope with the daily challenges of life during a global pandemic, is launching a major study that may provide greater insights into how we diagnose and treat anxiety and depression. Using devices including iPhone and Apple Watch, UCLA experts are collaborating with Apple to obtain objective measures of factors such as sleep, physical activity, heart rate and daily routines to illuminate the relationship between these factors and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The pilot phase of the study begins today, involving 150 volunteers recruited from among patients in UCLA Health. This phase will be conducted entirely remotely, highlighting the potential for using connected devices for virtual clinical studies.

This joint effort has the very real potential to transform behavioral health research and clinical care by enabling health care providers to note warning signs before severe mental health crises occur. The study is also an important step toward greater understanding of the different types of depression, and which treatments work best for each.

Apple’s longstanding commitment to privacy is an important factor in our decision to collaborate. This study is designed with the privacy and security of participants’ data as a high priority. UCLA will process and maintain the data in a secure environment, and researchers will only analyze data once stripped of identifying information.

As a neuroscientist by training with expertise in sleep and circadian rhythms, I am incredibly excited by the possibilities of this collaboration. Depression is far more common than many realize, affecting an astounding 300 million people worldwide, yet it is poorly understood. This study offers us even greater potential for meaningful breakthroughs that could someday impact countless lives, helping us meet our goal of cutting the burden of depression in half by 2050.

In the months ahead, we will be certain to share our progress on this study with the campus community and beyond. The project is a wonderful example of how, even in difficult times, UCLA continues to serve its research and public service mission, pushing the frontiers of knowledge for the benefit of all.


  • Gene D. BlockChancellor