If You Think You’re Depressed, Try Doing This on Your Phone

A new algorithm can actually tell you if you’re depressed—via your social media posts.

If-You-Think-You’re-Depressed,-Try-Doing-This-On-Your-Phone_129038348_Kostenko-MaximKostenko Maxim/Shutterstock

Worried you’re missing the hidden signs you might be depressed? Pick up your phone and check your posts on social media; they might reveal hidden clues to your mental health. Whether it’s the number of selfies you post, how many people are in your photos, or even the specific filters you use, social media can be a pathway to diagnosing depression, new research says.

A team from the Harvard psychology department and the University of Vermont Computational Story Lab is making strides in digital phenotyping, a field of research that uses interactions with devices like smartphones to produce diagnostic data. They have developed an algorithm that can detect signs of depression. By analyzing the contents of a patient’s Instagram feed, the program uses facial detection data, platform activity metrics, metadata, and color analysis to deduce their mental health.

The program was recently put to the test, and the results were published in a new study. After scanning the content of nearly 44,000 photos from 166 participants, the program correctly identified depressed individuals about 70 percent of the time. By comparison, previous research has shown that general practitioners can make a correct diagnosis of depression about 42 percent of the time.

“With an increasing share of our social interactions happening online, the potential for algorithmic identification of early-warning signs for a host of mental and physical illnesses is enormous,” Dr. Christopher Danforth, a study co-author from the University of Vermont, said in a statement. “Imagine an app you can install on your phone that pings your doctor for a check-up when your behavior changes for the worse, potentially before you even realize there is a problem.”

As a matter of fact, researchers are already developing an app that can allow your cell phone to detect certain types of cancer. And if you think you have depression or another mental illness, you can take this test on Google. Thanks to all of this groundbreaking technology, diagnosing mental illness could soon take just one little click.

[Sources: Vice, EurekAlert]