Doing Our Bit to Help Reduce Stress in Society

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Our StressWaves tool can tell if you’re stressed or not within 90 seconds. Our free online StressWaves tool can tell if you’re stressed or not within 90 seconds. StressWaves is the culmination of a partnership between Cigna and Ellipsis Health, a medical technology developer dedicated to quantifying behavioural health through voice recognition. Doing this isn’t easy.

The Ellipsis team has authored peer-reviewed papers on everything from how quickly an artificial intelligence could read your speech to what kinds of language models might best detect depression and anxiety. “Behavioural health conditions such as depression and anxiety are a global concern, and there is growing interest in employing speech technology to screen and monitor patients remotely,” notes the team in one paper.

But while the science is complex, we’ve tried to make StressWaves as simple as possible to use. After all, the last thing you want with someone who might be stressed is to make life more difficult and stressful for them. That’s why our test just involves answering two questions in front of your screen, for around 90 seconds apiece (in tests, we found some people liked to carry on for considerably longer).

Technically unchallenging

The only technically challenging part of the test is that you need to remember to switch your microphone on. The results appear on screen as soon as you’ve finished. We’ve tried to make the output of the test as intuitive as possible, with a sliding scale from green (feeling mellow) to red (stressed to bits). Most normal individuals will be somewhere in the middle.

Continuing with the ‘easy’ theme, the tool is available to anyone with an internet connection and is free to use, no matter how often you use it. If you’re clearly stressed, you can also visit our Stress Care Hub that offers many hints and articles to help you identify and manage your stress. Alternatively, you can contact Cigna if you’re already a member, or by all means take out membership. Regardless of membership status, however, we’d invite you to try the tool yourself and to share it with others.

A problem that is growing

The reason we’re so excited about StressWaves is that stress is a big deal in modern society—and it’s getting bigger. According to the latest Cigna 360 Well-Being survey, global health and well-being are still below 2019 levels despite the impact of COVID-19 vaccination programmes.

Our research showed women had a less positive outlook than men, and those at the beginning and end of their careers were particularly concerned about the future. The unemployed and workers without children also scored below average on positivity.

Concerns about financial stability were one of the main causes of this negative outlook, and the need to comply with lockdowns and social distancing has dented people’s social well-being. We also found many people were not sleeping properly, partly because of increased stress and anxiety, and this has a clear impact on physical well-being.

Not just mental health

For a well-being provider such as Cigna, it makes sense to tackle stress not just on its own merits but also because of the wider healthcare impact it might have. And tackling stress is hard because people may not even be aware of how stressed they are. That’s why we think it’s a good investment to teach a program to spot the signs.

The program will listen carefully (for at least 90 seconds) but won’t interrupt and won’t judge. At the end of your session, it’ll give you an honest, informed appraisal. What you do after that is up to you. But knowing there’s a simple way to test your stress might make life a little bit easier in itself. And that’s a start.

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