What is your “stress portrait”? This new AI tool can tell from just your voice

Written by Amy Beecham

A new AI tool can build you a “stress portrait” and identify your anxiety level just from your voice, its creators say.

We may think that we know what stress looks like. Muscle tension, headaches, exhaustion and even bloating can occur in our bodies when we’re under pressure. But what does stress sound like?

A new online tool from health service Cigna Europe and Ellipsis Health uses artificial intelligence to listen to the pitch, tone, word choice, and pauses in the user’s speech to give a measured reading of their current stress.

It then analyses these acoustic and semantic voice patterns to evaluate anxiety levels, which are then transformed into visual “stress portraits” which illustrate areas of tension within the body.

Cigna Europe’s “stress portrait” identifies areas of tension

“We all deal with stress every day. Whether it be from work, relationships, family, society or all the above; stress has become so normalised that it is often neglected or even undetected,”Dr Peter Mills, Associate Medical Director at Cigna Europe, tells Stylist. “There is no doubt the past year has also magnified people’s stress levels, and we can see from our research that mental health problems have worsened across all age groups.”

Indeed, Cigna Europe’s recent 360 Well-Being Survey found that 71% of people in the UK report being stressed, with 12% experiencing “unmanageable stress”.

“If stress goes unchecked, we may see dramatic consequences and that’s why innovative health tools like the Cigna StressWaves Test are so important,” explains Dr Mills. “By providing simple solutions at scale that are easy to use and accessible when the people need them most, we can encourage people to learn more about stress and seek professional help as appropriate.”

“More than 20 years of research were expanded upon by applying advanced machine-learning techniques to one of the largest datasets of labelled anxiety speech in the world. The algorithms have been tested on more than 15,000 individuals aged 18 to 80 and are robust enough to support different populations with varying accents and levels of speaking abilities.” 

It’s certainly a fascinating concept, but how can the tool go beyond a technology gimmick to actually help people?

“We tend to ignore what we can’t see, but stress is more than just a feeling, triggering physical reactions that affect your body, your emotions and thinking,” Dr Mills continues. “Over time, the effects of stress can have a detrimental effect on your brain and body, and this kind of long-term, chronic stress has been shown to lead to many serious physical and mental health conditions.”

“It’s hugely important that we provide support beyond the typical provisions of ‘body and mind’, to help people stay healthy and well in this ever-changing world, and help them address the disruption to their lives, brought by the pandemic. Knowing what your stress levels look like can help you to start managing it.”

Take the test for yourself and discover your own stress portrait.

Images: Getty/Cigna Europe

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