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Stressed? There’s an App for That!

smart-phone-userAccording to new research presented last month at ICE/ENDO 2014, the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago, a new app may be available to monitor stress.

Researchers are working on an app that will test for levels of the stress hormone cortisol in an easy and cost-effective manner.

“We have designed a method by which anyone with a smartphone will be able to measure their salivary cortisol level quickly, easily and inexpensively,” said lead investigator Dr. Joel Ehrenkranz, director of diabetes and endocrinology at Intermountain Healthcare in Murray, Utah.

Users will be able to give a small saliva sample to an external device and get a biometric reading on their stress levels. The results would come in less than 10 minutes and for under $5 for the app. In a lab, a salivary cortisol test could take several days to get a result and may run up to $50.

A national poll by National Public Radio (NPR) with partners at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health finds that more than 1 in every 4 Americans say they had a great deal of stress in the previous month.

Stress is unavoidable, and everyone deals with it at some point. However, at high and chronic levels, stress can be debilitating to one’s health.

Long-term exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all the body’s processes and cause an increased risk of numerous health problems, including:
Digestive problems
Heart disease
Sleep problems
Weight gain
Memory and concentration impairment

The American Psychological Association (APA) did a paper on the health disparity of chronic stress and found that African-Americans are more likely to be impacted by chronic stress.

Chronic stress is a long-term form of stress and can derive from unending feelings of despair/hopelessness as a result of factors such as poverty, family dysfunction, feelings of helplessness and/or traumatic early childhood experiences, according to the APA.

Chronic stressors associated with health disparities include perceived discrimination, neighborhood stress, daily stress, family stress, acculturative stress, environmental stress and maternal stress.

APA suggests a role of social and biological stress on health and a link between socioeconomic status and ethnic disparities in stress and health.

The Ministry of Public Health of Thailand plans to introduce the cortisol test later this year, as a consumer product to monitor individuals’ stress, Ehrenkranz said. His team is collecting clinical data to submit to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to gain approval to market the test as a class 2 medical device, which they hope will be granted in 2015.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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