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Researchers can determine if you’re depressed from your Instagram photos

This may be a positive step toward recognizing and talking about mental health.


Vanna Vasquez


Posted on Aug 8, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 9:14 pm CDT

A new study has found that the photos you post on Instagram can reveal telltale signs of depression.

Right about now, you might be thinking about the filters you can use to hide your feelings. Well, it turns out, that only makes it easier to diagnose you. For the study, researchers Andrew Reece of Harvard and Chris Danforth of University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences created a computer program that can recognize human depression by studying the frequency of posts and filters used. The pair asked 166 people to share their Instagram feed and their mental health history. The computer software correctly diagnosed a person with depression 70 percent of the time; practitioners correctly diagnose patients with depression 42 percent of the time, according to other studies.

The study found that depressed individuals do not use filters much, but when they do, they prefer darker colors. Also, taking numerous pictures by yourself is also a sign of depression according to the study.

“Depression is strongly associated with reduced social activity. As Instagram is used to share personal experiences, it is reasonable to infer that posted photos with people in them may capture aspects of a user’s social life,” the study says.

The study also revealed what a healthy Instagram account looks like. Mainly, a non-depressed person’s social site may feature numerous pictures with friends and family members with bright lighting. Healthy participants in the study preferred the Valencia filter.

Researchers are hoping this type of software can eventually be used in suicide prevention. “It is nearly impossible to predict suicide,” Dr. Igor Galynker of Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s psychiatry department told CBS News. “If machine learning could predict who is potentially suicidal—based on what they say, what colors they use—that would be incredibly important.”

H/T CBS News


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*First Published: Aug 8, 2017, 4:26 pm CDT