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Communications of the ACM

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Instagram Posts Can Reveal Depression Better Than Anything Patients Tell Their Doctors

A lone art-lover.

A pair of researchers found that an algorithm flagging a few key signs in peoples Instagram posts may be able to diagnose depression more effectively than doctors.

Credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Researchers at the University of Vermont and Harvard University say algorithmic analysis of Instagram posts could diagnose depression with more effectiveness than physicians.

The researchers used an algorithm to analyze about 44,000 Instagram photos posted by 166 study participants, flagging depression via markers identified in earlier research. Seventy-one of the participants had previously been diagnosed with depression.

The researchers concluded that posts by depressed people tended to have more blue, dark, or gray colors than those of healthy people.

In addition, although depressed people were more likely to post photos with faces, when healthy people did the same, there tended to be more people depicted in their images.

Furthermore, depressed subjects were less likely to use filters in their posts.

The algorithm was able to accurately identify which participants had depression 70% of the time, while a review of studies about physicians' depression diagnoses calculated a 42% accuracy rate.

From Quartz
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