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Published: Fri, August 11, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Your Instagram Pics Can Reveal If You're Depressed, Unsettling New Study Says

Your Instagram Pics Can Reveal If You're Depressed, Unsettling New Study Says

Researchers with the University of Vermont and Harvard believe they've built an algorithm that can determine whether an Instagram user is showing signs of depression based on their posts to the app.

A new computer program could help, however - it can detect depression in peoples' Instagram photos, even before the condition is diagnosed. The computer software correctly diagnosed a person with depression 70 percent of the time; practitioners correctly diagnose patients with depression 42 percent of the time, according to other studies. "Healthy people preferred to make their images appear warmer and brighter, using a filter called Valencia".

Another key finding was that the depressed volunteers were more likely to post photos with faces - but these photos had fewer faces on average than the healthy people's Instagram feeds - a sign that perhaps depressed users interact with fewer people.

Depressed users were more likely to post photos with faces, but they tended to post fewer faces per photo. Your social media photos may reveal clues to the state of your mental health, according to a new study.

In addition the study was made in a such way that nearly 50% of the participants were reported to be clinically depressed in the last couple of years.

Among depressed people, the most popular filter was Inkwell, which turns images black and white.

To find the results, the program scoured 43,950 photos in total to identify healthy and depressed individuals.

"This study is not yet a diagnostic test, not by a long shot", he said.

Other studies have indicated that depressed individuals prefer dark colors.

That matches the research that has linked depression to reduced social interaction.

The researchers were eventually able to create an algorithm that could determine whether or not an Instagram user would have depression. Additionally, the computer analysis revealed that those with depression posted photos more often than those who were not depressed. Their images generated less "likes" but received more comments. "People diagnosed with depression also posted at a higher frequency compared to non-depressed individuals", said Danforth. Though more research is still needed, Danforth says this aspect is particularly encouraging.

If you or a loved one are in need of any help, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has several resources here.

The algorithm studied people with similar qualities, like the fact they were active on social media and willing to submit information on their mental health, making it hard to know if it could be applied to the average user.

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