Your Sweat Can Detect If You’re Experiencing Burnout

Sweating can be a sign for many things: Physical activity, stress, fear, anger, living through an Australian summer. Sometimes it’s because you’ve just eaten spicy foods, or because you’ve drunk alcohol. Or maybe you’ve got a crush on someone, and your palms are slicking right up. Or you’re Eminem, rapping Lose Yourself.

Well now, your sweat can detect whether or not you’re suffering from burnout. Engineers, at EPFL’s Nanoelectronic Devices Laboratory (Nanolab) and Xsensio, have developed a wearable system that can measure the concentration of cortisol in human sweat.

It’s essentially a wearable smart patch that has a miniaturised sensor. The sensor captures the hormone, the device then detects the charge and consequently is able to measure the cortisol concentration in the wearer’s sweat.

As for cortisol? Essentially, it’s a hormone that released as a response to stress — it instructs our bodies to direct energy to our brain, muscles and heart when we’re in a stressful situation. According to Adrian Ionescu, head of Nanolab, “If the body makes too much or not enough cortisol, that can seriously damage an individual’s health, potentially leading to obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression or burnout.”

The reason this is such a big deal? Well, it’s the first of its kind. No other system has been developed that continuously monitors cortisol concentrations continuously throughout the circadian cycle.

Burnout is also currently assessed based on subjective self-reports, whereas this device “can help doctors objectively quantify whether a patient is suffering from depression or burnout and whether treatment is effective,” said Ionescu. They’d also have this information in real-time.

“Because it can be worn, scientists can collect quantitative, objective data on certain stress-related diseases. And they can do so in a non-invasive, precise and instantaneous manner over the full range of cortisol concentrations in human sweat,” he said.

And in the future? Maybe we’ll see it on an Apple Watch, Fitbit or a smart bracelet someday.

Read more stories from The Latch and follow us on Facebook.