Your Instagram Photos Can Reveal Whether you have Depression

Instagram posts give friends a peek into your personal life, but new research shows they may also provide a snapshot of your mental health.

Photos taken, edited, and shared to Instagram can show signs of depression through filters, faces, and colors, according to Harvard University’s Andrew Reece and Christopher Danforth from the University of Vermont.

Computers trained on signals like hue, facial recognition, and saturation were also better at predicting depression than average humans who analyzed photo attributes like happiness, sadness, and likability. Further results show that through this method, depression can be predicted even before an individual receives a diagnosis. Algorithmically generated results had a more successful diagnostic success rate for depression than that of general practitioners.

Predictive markers of depression in Instagram photos wouldn’t be used for treatment; rather, they could potentially become part of procedures to catch symptoms of depression early and prompt people to get care sooner.

“We foresee a more mature version of this tool being used more in the context of screening and assessment, rather than treatment,” Danforth and Reece explained in an email. “The algorithm we used looks for complex, systemic patterns across many data points to infer clues about individual psychology. If someone posts a dark, bluish photo to Instagram, it shouldn’t necessarily be a red flag for their therapist—that person could just like photos of whales, or blueberries.”

The research, a pre-print study published on that has not yet been peer-reviewed, analyzed almost 44,000 Instagram photos from 166 individuals. Surveys were assigned to depressed and healthy individuals; depressed people were asked to share their mental health history, including the date of their diagnosis.

Once connected to Instagram, researchers analyzed photos in two different ways: Workers on Mechanical Turk were asked to rate images on a scale of zero to five based on how likable, happy, interesting, and sad they were. Then a computer program analyzed pictures based on the number of faces in each photo, colorization, vividness, and brightness of images to find out what image qualities apply to photos shared by depressed individuals… Read More>>

Source: The Daily Dot

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