Research shows that the photos people post on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media networks might actually indicate their mental state. The Straits Times recently cited a study of Instagram users that revealed telltale clues about mental health.

The Research Team

Two men joined forces to do the research— Dr. Andrew Reece of Harvard University and Professor Christopher Danforth of the University of Vermont. Their completed study, published in the EPJ Data Science journal, focused on comparing the posts of Instagram users and drawing conclusions about mental health.

The Participants

The people involved in the study were drawn from a pool of active, highly rated participants on Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing workspace run by Amazon. In addition to their activity on Mechanical Turk, the participants had to be willing to let the researchers see all their Instagram posts and to share their past history with depression, if applicable.

The final pool of participants consisted of 166 individuals. Seventy-one of these Instagram users had a history of depression, including a clinical diagnosis. For the purposes of the study, the Instagram users were classified as “healthy” or “depressed,” based on whether or not they ever were diagnosed with clinical depression.

Analysis and Predictions

The team reviewed a variety of factors and did a pixel-level analysis of colour in the 44,000 photos gleaned from participants’ Instagram accounts. In addition, the researchers analysed the presence of faces in the photos and noted how often users posted and how many comments or likes they received.

Danforth and Reece identified patterns in the Instagram posts and used those patterns to form a working model. With that model, they hope to one day be able to identify people who might be depressed, based on the types of photos shared on Instagram. They hope that their research might be useful to mental health professionals around the world, including psychiatrists in Singapore.

Colour Analysis

According to Danforth and Reece, the Instagram users classified as “depressed” tended to post more realistic photos, rather than using filters. The healthy group often altered colour and brightness to make photos look more appealing, sometimes using the tool “Valencia.” The depressed group just posted their photos as they were taken, with alteration. If any filters were used, they often came from the “Inkwell” tool, which turns a colour photo to black and white. In general, depressed Instagram users often shared “bluer, darker, and greyer” photos than healthy people, according to Dr. Andrew Reece.

Post Interactions

The team also found that the depressed participants often gained more comments on their posts. Healthy participants tended to receive more likes and fewer comments. According to the study, depressed people also posted more often than the healthy users.

Mental Health Care for Depression in Singapore

Take a look through your Instagram account or explore those of your friends. Do you notice any trends or clues to the poster’s mental state? If you suspect that a friend or family member is feeling depressed, suggest that your loved one visit a psychologist in Singapore. At Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, we take care to help our patients feel welcomed, heard, and well cared for. Take time to look after a loved one’s mental health in Singapore, or visit us with questions about your own mental health and how you can live in a better state of mind.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Straits Times, 15 Aug 2017