How We Use Instagram Could Show Our Mental Health

Picture paints a thousand words and apparently, so does the photo that you just posted on Instagram. It’s become increasingly common to put ourselves out there in a world where social media is king, letting people see our lives through our posts, whether it’d be pictures through Facebook or Instagram. Thanks to a recent research paper, we might be revealing more about ourselves through our pictures than we think.

Originally penned by Harvard researcher, Andrew Reece, and University of Vermont’s Christopher Danforth, the research took a look at a pool of Instagram pictures from different people with the purpose gauging their mental health using the images as a basis. The process of analysing the photos included everything from looking at the colours, filters, saturation and even how they took the photos.

What they found was that people who were classified as having depression posted photos that were darker than those who weren’t diagnosed with it, showcasing the different ways in which they looked at the world.

Participants had to be people who had taken clinical depression diagnosis and agreed to share their entire Instagram posting history for the research. While you’d think that people would avoid such a thing, 166 people applied for the test with 71 of them suffering from clinical depression.

A whopping 44,000 photos were looked at and analysed for the study as well, and the results they obtained were pretty impressive to boot. Aside from the difference in colours and filters, participants diagnosed with depression tended to show their faces more in the pictures; they also tended to gravitate towards darker Instagram themes such as “Inkwell” and “Valencia” with quieter and more pensive photos.

They also discovered that photos posted by people clinically diagnosed with depression tended to receive more comments than their counterparts, whereas the opposite was observed with likes. They also posted more frequently than “healthy” users.

That being said, even Mr Reece and Mr Danforth have reservations in regards to the results of their study. While they are pretty reliable, that doesn’t change the fact that they had a relatively small number of people participating in the test, especially when research studies usually have hundreds of participants, so they caution against assuming that this applies to all or most clinically depressed Instagram users.

Evidently, it would be wrong to treat it as an everyday thing, after all, even someone suffering from a mental health problem can post an Instagram picture with all the filters and colours they want or receive more likes than comments. It’s a good way of analysing the difference, but it’s not one that should be taken at face value.

The researchers seem to think the same way, as they have proven some success in how a person’s mental health could be diagnosed through the pictures they post on social media. While the process needs some work, it could prove fruitful in spotting patients early and in doing┬áso, potentially save more lives.


Photo Credits: Bquate, Luis Maram

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