10-28 mental stress

[Image above] Even as society transitions back toward pre-pandemic life, students continue to face heightened levels of mental stress. Credit: engin akyurt, Unsplash

Though schools this semester may look like pre-pandemic times with students filling the halls, those attending classes are mentally in a very different place than they were two years ago.

In the past year, 15% of teens suffered at least one major depressive episode, according to 2022 data from Mental Health America. That is an additional 306,000 teens (1.24% increase) from last year’s dataset.

That data parallels a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found nearly three-quarters of high school students reported experiencing at least one adverse childhood experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, food insecurity, or loss of a parent’s job.

Students and schools alike are raising awareness of this burgeoning mental health crisis, and numerous organizations exist to provide support to students who are struggling.

However, determining when to seek help for mental stress can be difficult. While prolonged or chronic mental stress can lead to physical conditions over time, such as sleep problems and high blood pressure, these symptoms can manifest slowly. As such, people may not realize the extent of their struggles until their wellbeing is severely affected.

One day soon, however, determining when mental stress may become a prolonged issue could be expressed through quantitative measurements.

Researchers from Shiseido Co. Ltd., a Japanese multinational cosmetic company, recently identified discernible odor substances emanating from the skin during emotional tension. With that knowledge, gas sensors could be developed to detect those substances, thereby aiding in mental stress monitoring.

Ceramics are no stranger to use in diagnostic sensors. Longtime readers of CTT may remember the novel sensors developed last year to detect COVID-19.

Now, a recent open-access paper proposes nanosheet-type tin oxides could be used as gas sensors to quantify mental stress.

Two researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan wrote the recent paper. They explain they conducted numerous previous studies on the potential of nanosheet-type tin oxides as gas sensors (examples here, here, and here), which revealed this material exhibits “superior and unique sensing properties” due to its different surface structures.

In this study, they explored the ability of nanosheet-type tin oxide gas sensors to detect allyl mercaptan, one of the substances identified by Shiseido Co. Ltd. A sensor fabricated using commercial tin oxide nanoparticles was used for comparison.

The nanosheet-type tin oxide sensors exhibited a fast response to allyl mercaptan, notably faster than that of the commercial sensors. Additionally, when the signal responses of the nanosheet-type tin oxide sensors were measured for discrimination among various gases, the sensors exhibited high selectivity for allyl mercaptan.

Based on principal component analysis of the sensor signal responses, the researchers built gas classification models using supervised learning algorithms. Despite a slight decrease in sensing properties under humid conditions, the comprehensive data provided by the classification models allowed allyl mercaptan to be forecast with high accuracy.

Thus, “The nanosheet-type tin oxide is a key material for improving the forecasting accuracy of mental stress monitoring,” the researchers conclude.

The open-access paper, published in Scientific Reports, is “Nanosheet-type tin oxide gas sensor array for mental stress monitoring” (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-18117-8).