Online data shows signs of depression

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People who use file-sharing services and flick aimlessly from app to app may be depressed – and the “symptoms” could be used to detect depression.

Researchers at the University of Missouri studied a month’s worth of data from the university’s network – watching 216 students’ actual computer use – rather than relying on surveys, a method that is not very accurate.

Before the researchers collected the usage data from the campus network, students were tested to determine whether they showed signs of depression.

About 30 percent of the students in the study met the minimum criteria for depression.

Sriram Chellappan, assistant professor of computer science, and his fellow researchers found that students who showed signs of depression used the internet far differently from the other study participants.

Depressed students also tended to use higher “packets per flow” applications, those high-bandwidth applications often associated with online videos and games, than their counterparts.

These students also tended to use the internet in a more “random” manner – frequently switching among applications, perhaps from chat rooms to games to e-mail.

Chellappan thinks that randomness may indicate trouble concentrating, a characteristic associated with depression.

He is now interested in using these findings to develop software that could be installed on home computers to help individuals determine whether their internet usage patterns may indicate depression.

The software would unobtrusively monitor internet usage and alert individuals if their usage patterns indicate symptoms of depression.

“The software would be a cost-effective and an in-home tool that could proactively prompt users to seek medical help if their internet usage patterns indicate possible depression,” Chellappan says. “The software could also be installed on campus networks to notify counsellors of students whose internet usage patterns are indicative of depressive behaviour.” – Daily Mail

THE SIGNS IN YOUR WEB USE THAT WARN YOU COULD BE DEPRESSED

l Random “flipping” between different apps.

l Heavy use of chat rooms

l Heavy use of online gaming

l Use of heavy-bandwidth apps such as online gaming and video

l Extremely high use of e-mail

l Use of file-sharing services such as BitTorrent

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