Got an iPhone, Apple Watch? Your health data could spark a medical breakthrough

Apple's new Research app lets you share movement, heart rate, and noise-level data with medical research studies.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

iPhone and Apple Watch users are being asked to enrol in three health studies that will share data with researchers about their movement, heart rate, and the noise levels they are experiencing.

Smartphone and smartwatches now gather large amounts of data that could be very useful to researchers studying various conditions. Apple's new Research app provides the framework for that data to be used in such projects.

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Apple said the Research App, which is how users can sign up for the studies, includes detailed consent that explains how data will be used and allows a user to control the type of data shared with each of the three studies.

  • The Women's Health Study aims to improve understanding of menstrual cycles and how they relate to women's health. It seeks to advance knowledge about menstrual cycles and their relationship to various health conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, osteoporosis, and menopausal transition. The study will use iPhone and Apple Watch to collect study-specific data like cycle tracking information, and use monthly surveys to understand each participant's menstrual experience and to analyze the impact of certain behaviors and habits on a range of reproductive health topics.
  • The Heart and Movement Study wants to look at the factors that affect heart health and potentially cause deterioration in mobility or overall well-being. Users can participate by using the Research app on their iPhone and recording workouts on their Apple Watch Series 1 or later. The researchers want to understand how certain movements and details about heart rate and rhythm could serve as potential early warning signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), heart disease or declining mobility.
  • The Hearing Study will collect headphone usage and environmental sound exposure data through iPhone and the Noise app on Apple Watch, to explore how both can impact hearing over time. It will also attempt to measure how long-term sound exposure can affect stress levels and cardiovascular health. Participants will be randomly assigned to two groups in the study to assess if receiving Health app notifications when loud sound exposure is detected can motivate users to modify their listening behaviors.

Apple has worked on health-related projects like this before with its ResearchKit, which allowed scientists and medical researchers to build apps that can use data from willing iPhone users.

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