Internet Usage Can Reveal Patterns About Mental Health, Experts Say, and Email is Stressing You Out

As the internet integrates itself in ever increasing amounts in our day-to-day life, the profile we create unwittingly via our internet usage is also becoming apparent- and experts are taking a look at what this little data bites reveal.

Not surprisingly, depression manifests itself in internet usage, as it has done historically in patterns found in socializing, grooming, shopping, eating and alcohol use. And while one might think internet use would reveal some obviously unhealthy patterns among those classified as depressed, the behaviors observed in the depressed actually seem fairly innocuous.

In the New York Times, researchers from the Missouri University of Science and Technology wrote about a forthcoming study focusing on internet use patterns and depression to be published in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. According to the researchers, college students participating in the study were asked to fill out a standard issue depression questionnaire, and their internet habits were cut with the data to determine what the students who were determined to exhibit symptoms of depression got up to online.

What researchers found first and foremost was that email usage was a heavy indicator of depression when it was used a certain way, but gaming, streaming and sharing music and watching videos were also linked with symptoms of the study by researchers.

In addition, something identified as “flow duration entropy” was observed in participants identified as exhibiting depression symptoms, and is an indicator of difficulty paying attention. So what did researchers extrapolate from the study?

According to the piece in the Times, they say that software can eventually be created to monitor signs of depression in web users:

“We hope to use our findings to develop a software application that could be installed on home computers and mobile devices. It would monitor your Internet usage and alert you when your usage patterns might signal symptoms of depression.”

depression and internet use patterns

“This would not replace the function of mental health professionals, but it could be a cost-effective way to prompt people to seek medical help early. It might also be a tool for parents to monitor the mood-related Internet usage patterns of their children.”

Do you think your web use patterns would reveal patterns you’re not consciously registering, such as a depressive state?