Scientists use Instagram to identify depressive symptoms

Many people think that a person diagnosed with depression has a chronic “blue” mood, but not all depressed people show symptoms of sadness or despair. In reality, sadness is just one part of numerous symptoms that one may experience when suffering from the mental ailment.

Many patients lose their interest in activities, such as being with friends or taking part in social activities, many others face challenges in carrying out day-to-day activities. Whatever be the symptoms, an early diagnosis can lead to faster recovery. To find new avenues for an early detection and treatment of depression, researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont suggested that Instagram photos can be used to predict whether a person is suffering from a mental disease.

Diagnosing depression could be a challenging task for doctors since the symptoms are not always clear in early stages of the disorder. Using social media can be an inexpensive and a subtle way to scan people for potential health issues.

Choice of filters may predict clinical depression

According to the researchers, the choice of colors and shades can determine whether someone is susceptible to depression. For the study, the researchers examined 13,000 images posted by 166 Instagram users, some of whom were diagnosed with clinical depression.

Next, a computer system program was used to focus on four separate parameters, such as number of faces in the photo, color and brightness, use of Instagram filters, and metadata, as well as number of comments or likes. The computer program then compared these photos with the ones posted by the participants who were not depressed.

The computer system identified that 70 percent cases where the photos had lower brightness and saturation but higher hue suggested a low mood. A depressed person also showed a tendency to post photos that were darker, bluer, and grayer.

While people without depression mostly used the filter Valencia that lightens photos, depressed individuals used Inkwell that gives a black and white hue to images, suggesting a low mood. Moreover, depressed people were likely to receive more comments but only fewer likes, and also had fewer faces in their pictures.

Surprisingly, the computer device was able to identify depression correctly, nearly 54 percent of the time as compared to only 42 percent of the time in case of untrained physicians. The study does not prove that computer programs can replace physicians when it comes to identifying depression, but it can go a long way in helping physicians quickly identify people who are suffering from the mental disorder and need medical help.

Moreover, unlike physicians, computers can focus on vast data at the same time, including data from Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr feeds, which can empower physicians to combat challenges that come in the way of diagnosing and treating people with depression.

Seeking professional help

Though self-help strategies help in recovery from depression by bringing in positivity in one’s life, seeking treatment for depression is necessary. At times, emotions linked to depression are overwhelming and can be difficult to mitigate the symptoms even after prolonged use of self-help strategies. There is no particular formula for any particular coping mechanism to reduce levels of depression and hence it is advisable to seek professional help.

A balanced lifestyle is key to overall well-being. Treating a mental disorder needs professional assistance. If you or our loved one is battling some form of mental disorder, get connected to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to learn about the best mental health facilities in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with one of our mental health therapist for instant assistance.