Privacy-Preserving Social Ambiance Measure From Free-Living Speech Associates With Chronic Depressive and Psychotic Disorders

Wenwan Chen, Ashutosh Sabharwal, Erica Taylor, Ankit B. Patel, Nidal Moukaddam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A social interaction consists of contributions by the individual, the environment and the interaction between the two. Ideally, to enable effective assessment and interventions for social isolation, an issue inherent to depressive and psychotic illnesses, the isolation must be identified in real-time and at an individual level. However, research addressing sociability deficits is largely focused on determining loneliness, rather than isolation, and lacks focus on the richness of the social environment the individual revolves in. In this paper, We describe the development of an automated, objective and privacy-preserving Social Ambiance Measure (SAM) that converts unconstrained audio recordings collected from wrist-worn audio-bands into four levels, ranging from none to active. The ambiance levels are based on the number of simultaneous speakers, which is a proxy for overall social activity in the environment. Results show that social ambiance patterns and time spent at each ambiance level differed between participants with depressive or psychotic disorders and healthy controls. Individuals with depression/psychosis spent less time in diverse environments and less time in moderate/active ambiance levels. Moreover, social ambiance patterns are found associated with the severity of self-reported depression, anxiety symptoms and personality traits. The results in this paper suggest that objectively measured social ambiance can be used as a marker of sociability, and holds potential to be leveraged to better understand social isolation and develop effective interventions for sociability challenges, thus improving mental health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number670020
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Aug 11 2021


  • mental disorders
  • objective measures
  • social ambiance
  • social isolation
  • speech
  • wearable sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Privacy-Preserving Social Ambiance Measure From Free-Living Speech Associates With Chronic Depressive and Psychotic Disorders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this