Instagram can spot depression better than general practitioners, study says

Aug 08, 2017

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re depressed, take a look at your Instagram account. A new study says the social media platform could reveal signs of the disease.

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A group of researchers from Harvard University and the University of Vermont conducted a study to determine how the photo-sharing app can help identify symptoms of depression. 

To do so, they used a machine learning computer program to analyze 43,950 Instagram photos from 166 participants who were both depressed and healthy.

They found that healthier people seemed to use more colorful filters like Valencia. On the other hand, depressed people often chose black and white or gray-toned filters like Inkwell or no filter at all.  

“These results matched well with the literature linking depression and a preference for darker, bluer, and monochromatic colors,” the study said.

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Their research also discovered a link between depression and the number faces in an Instagram photo. Healthier people were more likely to have several people in their pictures, while depressed people were not. 

“This finding may be an oblique indicator that depressed users interact in smaller social settings, or at least choose only to share experiences of this sort on social media,” the study read. "This would be in accordance with previous findings that reduced social interactivity is an indicator of depression.”

Additionally, researchers found that their method was more likely to accurately diagnose depression 50 percent of the time, while general practitioners were more likely to spot it just 42 percent of the time. 

“These results,” the study said, “suggest new avenues for early screening and detection of mental illness.

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