The World’s First Voice-Activated Stress Test: A User’s Guide

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We have all been there. You are with someone who you suspect may be having a hard time at work, and you notice something odd in their voice, a hesitation or wavering in their tone. They won’t say it, but you can tell they are stressed. And that is the basis for a unique new service from Cigna, called StressWaves.

We’ve trained an artificial intelligence algorithm to listen out for signs of stress in the human voice and built a free online tool that people can use to check their stress levels. Using the tool is simple: all they have to do is make sure the microphone on their computer or mobile device is switched on, then follow the instructions on the screen.

The individual will be asked to choose a topic to talk about and will have to speak for up to 90 seconds - although they can go on for longer if they want. Then it will show them how stressed or unstressed they sound, on a sliding scale, and offer routes to further help.

A science-based tool

StressWaves appears disarmingly simple, but it’s built on a mountain of recent, peer-reviewed research. This has confirmed the accuracy of the voice recognition technology and the validity of the algorithm in assessing levels of stress. And we’ve tested the AI on 15,000 individuals before letting it loose on the population at large.

We use acoustic and semantic models to separate underlying stress (which might be impacting on wellbeing even if the person isn’t aware of it), from short-term stress (such as frustration at not switching the microphone on).  So, if StressWaves registers the person as stressed, then it’s highly likely they are.

That in itself is probably not surprising. We all get stressed at times, and our current environment is hardly designed to set us at ease. In fact, our 2021 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey, found that 83% of people worldwide are currently suffering from stress.

Actions you can take

While some stress is an unavoidable part of life, stress in large doses or over a prolonged period of time isn’t. So, it’s important to manage it. This is why our StressWaves tool has a link to our Stress Care hub, which has tools and tips to reduce stress for everyone.

If your company is a Cigna member, you and your employees can also get in touch with our specialists for professional help. Remember, StressWaves is a useful diagnostic tool but is not a substitute for medical advice.

Proud to combat stress

We’re very pleased to be first to offer this. One of the big problems with stress is that people sometimes suffer from it without being aware of the situation. And even if they think they’re stressed, they might not feel comfortable talking to someone about it. With StressWaves, they can speak to a robot instead.

It is a robot that knows, better than any human, how to spot that odd change in people’s voice that signals they might, just might, need a helping hand.

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