Online activity, like how often you chat, email or switch between Web applications, can show that you’re depressed – before you’re even aware yourself.
Have you ever thought about what makes you, you? It’s a deep question that isn’t answerable in a single sentence or phrase, but your Internet usage can offer quite a few clues about who you are. Where you go on the Web and what you do while you’re there can suggest certain psychological characteristics. It’s no surprise that companies are only too eager to sift through your recent page views and find ways to use that information to getting into your wallet through very targeted sales pitches and products. But what if that same information could be used to determine health risks instead?
Scientific American recently reported on a study conducted by a team of computer scientists, engineers and psychologists found that this type of data analysis just might be able to predict your tendency to experience depression.
Anyone can figure out that if you spend a lot of late nights playing high-stakes Internet poker, you’re a risk taker. And if you post numerous pictures or videos of yourself, it’s not a big leap to determine that you’re likely an extrovert. But how often you email others, chat online, stream media or switch from one application or website to another can also help predict psychological characteristics.
To complete this study, the research team asked more than 200 volunteers to fill out a survey about “recent affective experiences.” What the volunteers didn’t know was that a well-known measure of depression — the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) scale — was embedded within this survey. The researchers then correlated scores on the hidden depression scale with individual trends in Internet usage.
Using only this information, researchers were able to determine very specific patterns of Internet use that can be reliably linked to depressive tendencies. For example, peer-to-peer file sharing, heavy emailing and chatting online, and a tendency to quickly switch between multiple websites and other online resources all predict a greater propensity to experience symptoms of depression.
The data doesn’t tell us the exact reasons that these behaviors predict depression, but since an estimated 10 percent of all adults in the US currently suffer from clinical depression, this is good information to have—especially since depression can be so difficult to diagnose. Having this technology at our fingertips may mean that depressive tendencies can be identified earlier, possibly even before the at-risk individual is aware depression may be looming. This can lead to earlier – and more effective – treatment. And since untreated depression can leave an individual at risk for self-medicating via alcohol or drug use, the sooner the problem is recognized, the better.
Depression Help from The Canyon
If you or someone you love needs treatment for an addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder like depression, call The Canyon at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.