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Could AI be the future of mental health diagnoses?

Concept image of artificial intelligence
Deepmind | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Artificial intelligence is showing promise in providing successful psychiatric diagnoses, according to newly published research.

The research analysed the results of 15 studies that looked at the ability of AI models to diagnose a range of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The success of these models in correctly diagnosing these disorders ranged massively from 20% to 100%, highlighting the need for significantly more study and development to ensure reliably correct diagnoses.

However, as the original publication states, “the reported performance metrics paint a vivid picture of a bright future for AI in this field.”

With this in mind, the researchers suggest that “healthcare professionals in the field should cautiously and consciously begin to explore the opportunities of AI-based tools for their daily routine.

"It would also be encouraging to see a greater number of meta-analyses and further systematic reviews on the performance of AI models in diagnosing other common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.”

Psychological benefits of gardening and art reaffirmed in new study

New research from the University of Florida suggests that gardening and art both lead to significantly better mental health for women.

The study was made up of thirty-two women aged 26-49, all assessed as being in good health and having been prescribed depression or anxiety medication.

Half were assigned to art-making sessions, while the other half were assigned to gardening sessions. Activities took place twice a week for eight weeks.

After being assessed for levels of stress, anxiety and depression, the results found that both groups had very similar levels of improvement in all areas, with the gardening group reporting slightly lower levels of anxiety.

Of course, while these results support a widely held and rarely disputed belief that engaging with the outdoors or art can drastically improve mood, the researchers acknowledge the small sample size and lack of a control group for comparison, calling on further research as the solution.

Gender-affirming facial feminisation surgery can improve mental health for trans people

Results published by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) provides the first evidence that transgender patients who undergo gender-affirming facial feminisation surgery experience better mental health following the procedure than those who don't.

The study was made up of 169 patients and consisted of researchers comparing the mental health assessments of those awaiting surgery (107) to those who had already received it around 6.5 months ago (62).

The results found that on 7 out of 11 measures of psychological health – anger, anxiety, social isolation, meaning and purpose, positive affect, global mental health, and depression – those who had received surgery performed significantly better than those who had not.

Lead author, Dr Justin Lee said about the significance of these results: “Access to facial gender-affirming surgeries under health insurance coverage in the US is more limited than gender-affirming surgeries of other anatomic regions due to a lack of data on mental health quality-of-life outcomes.

"Our findings have the potential to change health insurance policies for the better for transgender patients.”

This was published the same week that YouGov reported that over the last 12 months, half of LGBT+ Britons say they experienced or were diagnosed with a mental health condition, compared to a third of the general population.

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