Switching quickly from Spotify to email to Facebook can be a telltale sign of depression. A recent study extensively correlates specific web habits, such as jumping between different applications, with depression.
The study by Missouri University of Science and Technology associates observed how 216 university undergraduates surfed the web for a month. About 30% of the students had depression, according to the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, an official screening test for the mental condition.
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These numbers match the national average. Depression affects about 10% to 40% of the national population of college students at one time. More than 90% of U.S. college students use the Internet regularly. So, the opportunity to look at the relationship between Internet activity and depression presented itself.
This may be the first study relating depression and Internet use, according to the researchers who looked at a huge range of online activity including downloads, duration, sharing and flow.
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Depression correlates with "common symptoms of Internet addiction" such as excessive video and gaming activity. The study shows depressed students are also connected to the Internet more frequently than their healthy peers. Depressed students also visit more health-related websites, chatrooms, social networks and gambling centers more often.
The data showed online peer-to-peer usage also increased with depression. These students share more music, movies and photos online. They also seek support in chatrooms "to overcome their feelings of isolation." Other web symptoms include excessively checking email and late-night usage.
"Subsequent analysis identified a number of fine grained Internet usage features that associate with depressive symptoms," Sriram Chellappan, one of the study's authors said. "Such features may yield insights towards developing software for personalized, early, in-home and cost-effective mental health care."
The researchers recommend using these primary findings to further identity correlations between Internet usage and other mental health disorders including anorexia, bulimia, ADHD and schizophrenia. The study's authors hope to use the findings to apply future software applications that could warn Internet users if they are displaying depression symptoms online.
Would you use an Internet program that warns you of dangerous web habits? Tell us in the comments if you would welcome a cost-effective downloadable alternative to monitor your mental health.
Image courtesy of Flickr, Kashirin Nickolai
This story originally published on Mashable here.