Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Social Networks Medicine The Internet Science Technology

Detecting Depression From How (Not What) You Browse 163

Posted by Soulskill
from the scroll-scroll-click-pause-click-scroll-means-you're-a-psychopath dept.
New submitter FreedomFirstThenPeac writes "Apparently we can diagnose you as depressed if the mechanics of your internet use fit certain patterns. By using a cleverly embedded questionnaire that classifies the subject as depressed, and by using existing net usage data collection to collect features (variables), researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology were able to correctly predict the diagnoses of the questionnaire using the net usage data (PDF). I wonder if this could be a new Firefox plug-in, designed to help parents detect depression in their adolescents by tracking the mechanics (not the sites) and automatically emailing them if their ward is showing increasing signs of depression."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Detecting Depression From How (Not What) You Browse

Comments Filter:
  • by arnoldo.j.nunez (1300907) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @07:01PM (#40990979)
    The relevant excerpt:

    It turns out that very specific patterns of internet use are reliably related to depressive tendencies. For example, peer-to-peer file sharing, heavy emailing and chatting online, and a tendency to quickly switch between multiple websites and other online resources all predict a greater propensity to experience symptoms of depression. Although the exact reasons that these behaviors predict depression is unknown, each behavior corresponds with previous research on depression. Quickly switching between websites may reflect anhedonia (a decreased ability to experience emotions), as people desperately seek for emotional stimulation. Similarly, excessive emailing and chatting may signify a relative lack of strong face-to-face relationships, as people strive to maintain contact either with faraway friends or new people met online.

    Sounds like it's easy to dismiss on first glance. How do you define heavy emailing? Heavy emailing could be a symptom of a job that demands good communication skills -- which would you lead you to believe that the person is not depressed and functioning normally.

    • by maxdread (1769548)

      Which is why I assume it wasn't the ONLY indication mentioned.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like it's easy to dismiss on first glance. How do you define heavy emailing?

      That which is beyond a threshold deviation from the mean.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistics

    • Moreover, why exactly is chatting and emailing "striving to maintain contact" as opposed to "contact." Why does having friends online, if you clearly enjoy them enough to talk to them heavily, mean you're sad?
      • I think its more that "heavy" chatting and emailing correlates to having less such contact IRL (people with face-to-face relationships don't spend as much time maintaining online ones), and that having few IRL relationships correlates to depression.

        It's not "having online friends makes you sad" its "having no IRL friends makes you sad". Measuring the degree of communication with online friends is just a simple heuristic for determining if someone has many face-to-face friends.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      People become depressed when not interacting IRL. News at 11.

      And people get paid to publish this obvious shit. Sheesh!

    • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @08:20PM (#40991689)

      Also, the study seems to ignore cultural differences between children from different parts of the world. A good plugin would take that into account when emailing recommendations to parents:

      USA: "Your 6 year old has been emailing santaclaus@northpole.com heavily and therefore seems depressed. Hide your guns and ammo immediately!"

      South Korea: "Your child used an online chatroom for a total of 23 minutes last week. Perhaps 16 hours of studying per day is not enough."

      Saudi Arabia: "Your daughter has accessed the Internet! Kill the whore now before she dishonors your family."

      etc...

    • It turns out that very specific patterns of internet use are reliably related to depressive tendencies. For example, peer-to-peer file sharing,

      So the next time the RIAA sues you, you'll have the defence of not being liable because that's just a symptom of your depression, and there's nothing you can do about it? :-)

    • As with the article 2 weeks ago where they want to classify people as psychopaths by their Tweets [slashdot.org], lets recognize this for what it is. Eugenics disguised as science. This is a way to accomplish a few things in one whack.

      1. Justify monitoring and censoring

      2. Classify anyone that fits a certain pattern which someone in an establishment deems "dangerous".

      I'm not by any means a psychologist or psychiatrist, but at the same time I have enough understanding of the human mind from the classes I did take in coll

  • Anymore, everyone's child is a special snow flake who's failures aren't his or her fault, but rather society's and their own designer mental illness ( ADD, ADHD, autism ).

    That's just what we need; to arm these arm chair shrinks with more reasons why their special little one is fucked up, and get them amped up on the latest "Make Normal" drug.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @07:18PM (#40991155)

      Depression is real. There are chemical and electrical changes in the brain.

      People like you are why I am still so fucked up. My parents thought like you. When I was a kid I went to a doctor for bronchitis and he told my father that he thought I was depressed. The response was to be yelled at and threatened to be kicked out of the house, which eventually happened. Before I was kicked out my 'treatment' was to talk with a 'life coach' friend of his about my attitude. A psychologist or therapist was never considered because that was pseudoscience to him.

      Fast forward 15 years and I was diagnosed with depression, BPD, BDD, and social phobia. This is shit that could have been treated more effectively when I was young. It is shit that the longer you have it the harder it is to change your course. It is also shit that would have been covered under my parent's insurance plans.

      • by nomadic (141991)
        Yep, there are noticeable changes in the brain from depression, and the more depressive periods you have the worse off you are long-term. A great book on depression is Peter Kramer's Against Depression, which summarizes a lot of the current research on the mechanisms of depression and the effect it has on the physical structure of the brain: http://www.amazon.com/Against-Depression-Peter-D-Kramer/dp/0143036963/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344986854&sr=8-1&keywords=peter+kramer [amazon.com] Highly recommended.
      • by Bengie (1121981)
        I wonder if you can sue your parents for neglect and abuse, which is obviously causing you long term trouble and probably costing money via meds.
      • by dudpixel (1429789) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @12:46AM (#40993547)

        I still wonder if medicine has the cause-and-effect mixed up a bit. The chemicals in the brain can be reactive, and higher levels of any of them could be a symptom of something else. The brain manufactures its own serotonin, so any increase or decrease must also have a cause. These chemical levels should not be viewed in isolation.

        Based on my own experience, I tend to think that the changes had a psychological cause, and so one should attempt a psychological treatment as a first option.

        Obviously every case is different, so I'm not saying drugs aren't necessary for some. But treating the chemical imbalance as if it is the cause just seems wrong to me. It doesn't answer the question of where these chemicals come from (the brain makes them) and why (something causes the brain to make more).

        A normal, healthy brain regulates its own chemicals and neurons etc.

        A depressed brain tends to have a negative feedback loop where something triggers a drop in serotonin (or other chemicals) and that in turn makes you "sad", which then results in a further drop in seroronin, and so on. When you are actually depressed, the initial cause is probably long gone, and sometimes it may need external help to re-stabilise everything (although I never got that far along, I always seemed to restabilise naturally after a few weeks. the exhaustion tended to allow my body/brain to recover). I'm not an expert in it so I can only go by my experience.

        Eventually you start to become aware of some of the "triggers" that set you off, and once you recognise them, you can start to work around them. Your brain forms pathways, and it is just like tracks in soft dirt I suppose (not literally). The more times you take that path, the deeper the rut becomes, making it harder to take a different path next time. But you can use this same principle to your advantage. When you sense that you are heading down the wrong pathway, try focussing on positive, self-reassuring things, and see if you can focus on your good qualities and things you are proud of yourself for. You may have heard people talk about re-wiring your brain - that is effectively what this positive thinking can do. You form new neural pathways by the way you think, but naturally your brain forms habits and if you have pathways leading to depression it will default to those pathways. It is not an easy task trying to change this, and you should not expect it to be easy.

        I live by the motto that nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy.

        For me it was positive self-talk, and regular contact with friends that really helped. It isn't a miracle cure, but once you find something that makes you feel good about yourself, keep working on it. Celebrate your wins, and ignore/forget your losses. By this I mean, make it a big deal if you experience something positive, but don't beat yourself up if you fail. I also tackled some tasks that I had previously thought I could never do (public speaking, making new friends, etc) and I was able to focus on my successes and use those as a strength to look back on and be proud of myself. From there I found that when I came across difficulty and found myself sinking, I could turn the situation around by thinking positive (eg. 'I can do it, I've done it before, I'm stronger than this, I know I can win' etc).

        The goal is to truly believe in yourself, and not require external feedback in order to feel good about yourself. It is difficult, and you may never master it, but remember that every win is one less loss, and a part of a better life.

        It's good to know the science behind it, but I don't think medical science can find all the answers without acknowledging the role of psychologists and counsellors.

    • by nomadic (141991) <[nomadicworld] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @07:29PM (#40991273) Homepage
      Yep, telling your kid that they're failures has always been a great way to turn them into educated, stable, confident adults.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You have to remember to beat them too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

        Yep, telling your kid that they're failures has always been a great way to turn them into educated, stable, confident adults.

        Ttelling them they are smart and winners is at least as bad. The best current advice seems to be to tell them that failing is part of the process of succeeding and is nothing to be ashamed of. [nytimes.com]

        • by Anonymous Coward

          That article is absolute garbage. Seriously bad. It's easier to let a young child stumble than a teenager go to the mall? Really!?!? An infant taking a slight fall can break their neck, and have no concept how of a big fall (from a great height) differs from a stumble. If you haven't taught your teenager how to be safe in a shopping center by the time they're old enough to go you're a moron who's doomed to fail!

          How does it work for toilet training? Pretend it's no big deal and watch them make no forward pro

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @07:06PM (#40991039)
    .....to email my mother more often?
  • Also (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @07:10PM (#40991073)

    I've noticed a correlation between getting depressed and reading dupes [slashdot.org].

    --
    I don't usually reply to gweihir (88907) either. So there.

  • by babywhiz (781786) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @07:16PM (#40991131) Journal
    I would prefer to see someone research radical changing of desktop configurations possibly indicating brain aneurysms. I have noticed twice in my working career that people that suddenly change their background color to something like magenta, or fiddle around with the size of their text non-stop (aka one day they contact support because the text is too small, next day they contact support because the text is too big.) end up within 6 months being in the hospital because of a brain aneurysm. No Joke.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      When I started reading your post,

      I would prefer to see someone research radical changing of desktop configurations possibly indicating brain aneurysms.

      I though you were going to talk about Steve Ballmer and the Windows 8 Metro user interface.

  • "peer-to-peer file sharing, heavy emailing and chatting online, and a tendency to quickly switch between multiple websites and other online resources all predict a greater propensity to experience symptoms of depression" All of that sounds like normal teenager behavior in 2012. And seriously, what teenager isn't depressed. Their faces are all spotty, they have to sit in Trigonometry class, won't have gratuitous sex until college, curfew, living with parents, can't drink alcohol, etc. Just remembering al
  • The potential of these studies is always framed in terms of identifying victims of depression so that they can be helped, but the truth (in the U.S. anyway) is that this will be turned into a screening method for employment, insurance, and law enforcement purposes.

    • Damn right. A lot of the big-name dating sites already try to filter out depressed men and employers would LOVE to be able to filter out potential employees with undiagnosed depression (yay capitalism!)

  • I think somebody when somebody googles something along the lines of what is a good way to kill myself, or something similar, there's a pretty good chance that said person is depressed.
  • I know what the correlation is.

    If you are on the administrative mailing list that receives all mail delivered to root (and other automatons) from all your servers; you will also develop depression. Especially after a weekend of Servers Gone Wild.

  • Learned Optimism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Talinom (243100) * on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @08:02PM (#40991563) Homepage Journal
    The path out of depression has been well documented in Dr. Martin Seligman's book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. He has spent 30 years of his life in the field of positive psychology and has multiple case studies showing how people can get over "learned helplessness" in all three realms of personal, pervasive and permanent.

    http://www.amazon.com/Learned-Optimism-Change-Your-Mind/dp/1400078393/ [amazon.com]

    He has a talk on Ted:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/martin_seligman_on_the_state_of_psychology.html [ted.com]

    And a website with some questionnaires:
    http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx [upenn.edu]

    To use Chris Farley, who unfortunately committed suicide due to depression, as an example I provide three typical phrases that he would use in his work:
    Personal: I suck!
    Pervasive: Everything sucks!
    Permanent: It will always suck!

    Please note that motivational speakers are typically all optimists and people who are unmotivated go to them for a "motivational fix" which lasts for about two weeks without optimism to back it. See also the typical person who starts a diet, exercise regimen or other self improvement plan.
    • chris farley died of an overdose on a mixture of cocaine and heroin known as a speedball. coincidentally, john belushi, another overweight comedic actor, died the same way. it could be argued that depression led to the excessive use of these drugs, but the cause of death is officially drug overdose. not suicide.
  • Are you feeling depressed?
    [] Yep! [] Nope!
  • If your teenage child is *not* feeling depressed, you need to be concerned. For fuck's sake, as much a part of life being depressed is for adults, it's a damn near obligatory for a teenager. Being a teenager is shitty. Homework, bullies, fights, hormones, dating, sex, broken homes, abuse, shitty educations, shitty school systems, apathetic teachers, discovering your own views on the world and your own personality apart from your up-bringing and peer-group, grades, scholarships, college worries. If your kid

  • by GrahamCox (741991) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:28PM (#40992755) Homepage
    "It looks like you're depressed. Would you like help with:"

    [ ] Slitting your wrists.
    [ ] Weeping morosely into a pint of beer.
    [ ] Retreating into an endless cycle of binge eating and self-hatred.
    [ ] Getting professional help.
  • by metacell (523607)

    From the summary:

    I wonder if this could be a new Firefox plug-in, designed to help parents detect depression in their adolescents by tracking the mechanics (not the sites) and automatically emailing them if their ward is showing increasing signs of depression."

    It'd be really sad if a parent needed to do this to know something was wrong with their kid.

    Not to mention, it'd give the kid the (correct) impression that the parent is snooping ON them instead of talking TO them.

  • By using a cleverly embedded questionnaire that classifies the subject as depressed

    What, every time? Seems a little harsh.

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error. -- Weisert

Working...