The Missouri University of Science and Technology study is thought to be the first to use actual Internet data compiled anonymously to explore the links between online habits and depression.
The study involved 216 undergraduate students who were assigned pseudonyms to disguise their identities. Every participant underwent testing to identify any signs of depression and this data was then compared with their Internet usage.
Researchers found that depressed students were more likely to chat online, send emails, file-share and play online video games than those who did not show signs of depression. They also tended to have a more ‘random’ pattern of usage, meaning they would switch between sites or applications constantly. This is thought to indicate trouble concentrating, a characteristic often associated with depression.
Developers are currently working on depression-detection software which could be installed on home computers to detect whether Internet usage patterns point to possible depression.
Assistant professor Dr Sriram Chellappan said: “We could also investigate associations between other Internet features like visits to social networking sites, late night Internet use and randomness in time of Internet use with depressive symptoms.”
This data could then be used to spot other mental health disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, ADHD and schizophrenia.
To find out how counselling can help with these issues, please visit our Types of Distress page.
View and comment on the original International Business Times article here.