Your Instagram posts can reveal a lot about you. They can tell the world about your favorite foods, fashion trends, inspirations and vacation experiences. But new research is revealing that the photos you post on social media can also give clues as to whether you’re experiencing mental health issues.
Lead researcher Andrew Reece, a Harvard University graduate student, said that the computer software his team has developed can correctly diagnose people with depression with a 70% success rate. The current rate for general practitioners correctly diagnosing their patients with depression has a success rate of 42%.
So how exactly can your Instagram feed reveal your mental health status?
Reece and Danforth found out that people who suffer with depression often prefer their images in black and white tones, while those who don’t experience a mental illness prefer bright, colorful filters for their posts.
“Depressed individuals were found to prefer darker, grayer colors. In addition, Barrick, Taylor & Correa found a positive correlation between self-identification with depression and a tendency to perceive one’s surroundings as gray or lacking in color,” Reece and Danforth wrote. “These findings motivated us to include measures of hue, saturation, and brightness in our analysis. We also tracked the use of Instagram filters, which allow users to modify the color and tint of a photograph.”
Their research included 166 people, 71 who had a history of depression and mental disease. After their research was completed, they had gathered 44,000 pictures.
“Paired with a commensurate focus on upholding data privacy and ethical analytics, the present work may serve as a blueprint for effective mental health screenings in an increasingly digitalized society,” they wrote in the conclusion of their study. “More generally, these findings support the notion that major changes in individual psychology are transmitted in social media use, and can be identified via computational methods.”
You may not think that posting a selfie to Instagram or other social media apps may reveal potential health issues, but Reece and Danforth’s research could change the way we approach mental health and recognize its connection with social media.
If you’re experiencing depression and need support, call the National 1-800-784-2433.