University of Groningen: New Lifelines study on mental health and social behaviour

Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience Martien Kas of the University of Groningen has recently started a research study on mental health and social behaviour as part of the Lifelines biobank project. Kas is using the smartphone app Behapp to measure as accurately as possible the extent of social behaviour that individuals display. With the study results, Kas and other researchers hope to be able to contribute to the treatment of psychological disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease in the future.

To gather this knowledge, a large number of study participants is needed. The collaboration between the Lifelines biobank project and the Behapp app is therefore very valuable, as Lifelines comprises a large research institute involving participants from across the provinces of Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. Through the Behapp app, individuals can participate in the study in a low-threshold manner. ‘Surveys on social behaviour often pose very difficult questions, such as asking how many people you’ve spoken to over the past two months. But this app measures the social behaviour of participants in a precise and reliable manner, without them having to do anything—except from installing the app, of course’, explains Kas.

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Research into social behaviour
Martien Kas researches the importance of social behaviour for our mental health at the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Research into this area has demonstrated that social contact is highly important for our mental health, and that individuals with poor mental health also display reduced social behaviour. Kas is attempting to unravel why some people display less social behaviour than others. To this end, he is also investigating how reduced social behaviour and mental health are related.

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