Apple rolls out mental health tracking, vision assessment as new Health app features

The roughly half of American smartphone users with iPhones will notice new health and privacy features on their devices starting today.

In addition to iPhones being equipped with new health features, Apple’s update will give iPad and Apple Watch users access to new tools. All three platforms will gain features that encourage healthy behaviors, reduce the risk of myopia, or nearsightedness, and provide ways to assess and address depression, according to the company. The new features were announced as part of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference 2023 Monday.

By bringing the Health app to the iPad, the tech giant hopes to inspire even more Apple users to take a proactive approach to their health.

“Our goal is to empower people to take charge of their own health journey. With these innovative new features, we’re expanding the comprehensive range of health and wellness tools that we offer our users across iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch,” said Sumbul Desai, M.D., Apple’s vice president of Health, in a press release. “Mental health and vision health are important, but often overlooked, and we’re excited to introduce features that offer valuable new insights to provide users with an even better understanding of their health. These insights help support users in their daily decisions and offer more informed conversations with their doctors.”

The Health app in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 and the Mindfulness app in watchOS10 will allow users to identify emotions ranging from “very pleasant” to “very unpleasant.” Emotions are chosen using a visual, engaging representation of emotions through shapes and colors.

Apple's new mental health tracking feature (Apple)

Users can then select associations they interpret as having the biggest impact on their feelings, such as travel or family, before describing their feelings. Anxiety and depression assessments performed in clinics can also be accessed through the Health app in order to tell users how at risk they are for depression.

Apple sees the connection with resources along with the identification of emotions as pathways to deeper internal insights and the seeking of future support or treatment. The tech company cited Michelle Craske, Ph.D., who cited studies showing that by naming emotions, heart rate is slowed and feelings of sadness and anger are decreased.

“Identifying our feelings has been shown to help us manage difficult emotions, appreciate positive moments, and improve wellbeing,” Craske, a distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a press release.

Worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a disconcerting 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide. The National Institute for Mental Health found in 2020 that 8.4% of U.S. adults reported one major depressive episode in the previous year. That number bumped up to 10.5% for females and dipped to 6.2% for males.

Those aged 18 to 25 were the highest demographic showing depression with 17% reporting a major depressive episode. Of respondents identifying as belonging to two or more racial groups, 15.9% has experienced a major depressive episode in the previous year.

By tracking emotions along with other health metrics like exercise and sleep, Apple says that users can gain insights into their own emotional patterns and how they relate to physical health and social settings. For example, the Health app may inform a user that in the last month, 70% of pleasant moments were related to family.

The new Apple update also seeks to address depression along with myopia, or nearsightedness, by encouraging spending time outdoors. With watchOS10, Apple Watches will be able to measure time spent in daylight using the ambient light sensor. Users can then view their time spent in daylight on their iPhone or iPad with the Health app.

“On iPad, the design of the Health app is optimized for the large display, with a new look for Favorites and detailed interactive charts,” the company wrote in a press release. “Users can receive insights into their health data with Trends and Highlights, and use iPadOS features like Split View to multitask with other apps while they view their health data.”


The International Myopia Institute recommends children spend at least 80 to 120 minutes a day outside. In addition to spending time outdoors, increasing the distance from which children view something like a device or book helps avoid myopia.

Apple’s new Screen Distance feature uses the same TrueDepth camera used for identifying faces to encourage users to move their device further away.

Additional novel updates include a Medications feature to provide users with follow-up reminders to stick to treatment plans. The new offering is ameliorated by the introduction of custom plans to Apple Fitness+ which allows for custom connections between fitness and medication schedules.

The tech company finished the written announcement on its website by reiterating that the Health app never shares user data with third parties without explicit permission. When permission is granted, users maintain granular control of which data are shared with who and when, the company said.