Not quite on the pulse

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2012, 12:00am


Stress Check
Rating 5/10

Stress Check measures your stress level, the developers say, by monitoring your heart rate variability (HRV). At a small percentage of the cost of other devices that measure HRV, the free Stress Check app looks appealing.

Heart rate variability measures the miniscule variations in the interval between heartbeats. Researchers have discovered that these variations provide an indication of heart health and nervous system activity. Other references suggest a high HRV is also associated with better physical and mental health.

The Stress Check measures the heartbeat over a short period of about two minutes, and at the end gives you a stress score based on your HRV. So that you don't get bored while waiting, the app provides helpful tips and information such as: 'We all need some eustress in our lives. Forming bonds with new friends induces a sense of stress that's good for you, so make time to be social.'

My first score was 2 per cent, after a stressful morning of work deadlines. My next score was 7 per cent, after 20 minutes of meditation. Besides the obvious inversion of results, I was also concerned about my physical and mental health since these results were clearly not high.

A few days later I tried again, and over the following few days scored 29 after meditation and 30 after another stressful morning, with various other erratic scores around these.

As I write this review, on holiday and sitting on a terrace with family by a lake in Ireland, my score is 34. The app tells me my stress level is slightly elevated, that my mind is alert, but I should take a break soon and practise some deep breathing. Perhaps this is eustress. I don't think I need to take a break.