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 you know, maybe a loved one, friend or work colleague, 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 have trained an artificial intelligence algorithm to listen out for signs of stress in the human voice and built a free online tool that you can try for yourself today. Using the tool is simple: all you have to do is make sure the microphone on your computer or mobile device is switched on, then follow the instructions on the screen.

You will be asked to choose a topic to talk about and will have to speak for up to 90 seconds (although you can go on for longer if you want). Then you’ll be shown how stressed or unstressed you sound, on a sliding scale, and offered routes to further help if you need them. What should you do with this information? Before going any further, it’s important to know that while StressWaves appears disarmingly simple, it is actually built on a mountain of recent, peer-reviewed research.

A science-based tool

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 your wellbeing even though you aren’t aware of it) from short-term stress (such as frustration at not switching your microphone on).

So, if StressWaves says you are stressed, then it’s highly likely something is eating away at you. 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. Last year, for example, a survey by the American Psychological Association found nearly eight in 10 people in the US were stressed out by the coronavirus pandemic. Two in three said their level of stress had increased during 2020.

Actions you can take

That said, stress isn’t good for you in large doses or over a prolonged period of time. So, what should you do if stress levels are in the red? The first thing to remember—if you can manage it—is not to get more stressed. As mentioned earlier, stress is quite common. And it’s also relatively easy to take care of.

But it is also definitely something you might want to keep in check for the sake of your well-being. To make this easy, the StressWaves tool has a link to our StressCare Hub which has many articles and tips to help you identify and manage your stress. And if you are a Cigna member then you can get in touch with our specialists for professional help in reducing your stress levels. Remember, StressWaves is a useful diagnostic tool but is not a substitute for expert assistance.

Proud to combat stress

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

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

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