Researcher at ETH Zurich’s Electronics Laboratory develop a electronic stress assistant which will monitor stress levels in everyday life aiming to prevent burnout and depression more effectively.
Bert Arnrich, Cornelia Setz, Gerhard Tröster and their teams worked out indicators to determine stress levels, including the skin conductance on the fingers, the heart and breathing rates and the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva.
A study including over 30 volunteers which have been put under stress revealed that the stress assistant was able to capture 83 percent of the stress cases correctly based on skin conductance.
This is due to the fact that the body secretes more sweat when under stress, especially on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet. As a result the conductance of the skin is increased.
Although skin conductance provides high accuracy it has to be complemented with other measurements to achieve a higher level of reliability. On the work agenda of the teams is to further develop special sensors and make them more comfortable to wear, possible integrating them into special clothing or underwear.
One suggestion is to include measuring skin conductance on feet since the inner side of the feet react similarly to the palm of the hand, i.e. with increased perspiration. Appropriate sensors could be integrated into normal socks.
Possible application fields for the stress detecting socks would be for example firefighter who work under time pressure and high mental strain or in the medical area for patients who suffer from manic depressive disorders.