Researchers have now found a new way of detecting depression in individuals aside from outward signs. According to a new study to be published in the EEE Technology and Society Magazine, people who show signs of depression use the Internet differently from their peers.
Dr. Sriram Chellappan, an assistant professor of computer science at the Missouri University of Science and Technology and the lead author of the study, says that this is the first study to use actual Internet data anonymously and unobtrusively, minimizing the risk of data tampering. A month’s worth of data from 216 students was used, and all of the participants were assigned a code name to protect their privacy. Before analyzing the data, however, the participants were tested using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression or CES-D scale to determine whether they exhibited symptoms of depression or not.
When the time came to compare, researchers found that students who had symptoms of depression had a different Internet usage pattern. First, they were more likely to frequent file-sharing services. They participated in chat rooms and sent e-mail more often than other students did. Second, they used the Internet more randomly. They could be talking with somebody online one second and then using a different service the next. Researchers believe that this is due to their lack of concentration. Third, depressed students tended to use heavy bandwidth operations like video servers and online gaming sites.
Researchers are currently focusing their attention on coming up with a software that may be able to detect depression even for Internet users at home. "The software would be a cost-effective and an in-home tool that could proactively prompt users to seek medical help if their Internet usage patterns indicate possible depression," Chellappan says. "The software could also be installed on campus networks to notify counselors of students whose Internet usage patterns are indicative of depressive behavior."
While you may not need or be able to get this software, it's still a good idea to check on your child's Internet usage (without violating his privacy, of course!) from time to time. If you feel that he is using his Web access privileges in ways that are unusual or worrying, you may want to have a sit down and discuss any issues that may be weighing him down.
(Photo by jessiejacobson via Flickr Creative Commons)