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Your Internet Usage Could Signal Depression

Originally published on Tuesday, May. 29, 2012
BRAIN FUNCTION, Mental Health by

signs of depressionIt might have been something that was thought about but never really explored, until recently. Researchers are now shining new light on how specific types of internet use could be a major sign of depression and anxiety. Researchers have now finished what is believed to be the first study that uses real data on usage amounts.

The study in question is a little more up close and personal than ones of its kind in years gone by, and used actual data, as opposed to surveys. The month-long study tested 216 students for overall symptoms of depression and anxiety and poured over records of private internet use patterns.

The Depression and Anxiety Study and Internet Usage

The researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology found, that statistically speaking, there is a link between depression and specific types of Internet use. The analysis looked at a variety of important factors, namely including typical internet behaviors (switching sporadically between applications, checking email and spending excessive time on games, videos and music) and that they showed a correlation with depression in the research. “Difficulty concentrating or making clear decisions are indicators of depressive symptoms among students,” the study noted.

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The study also made the following notes of interest:

1. Frequently checking ones email can relate with high levels of anxiety which can trace back to depression.

2. Gaming and compulsive video watching are common signals for internet addiction that lead to common symptoms of depression.

3. Online gambling, shopping and frequent social networking as well as visits to medical websites showed links to depression.

4. Frequently spending late nights online has also been associated with depression, the scientists noted.

The research showed conclusively that participants who showed signs of depression also tended to use the Internet in a more erratic fashion, often switching among applications in a quick and random fashion. Study researchers determined that this randomness may indicate trouble concentrating, a major characteristic of depressive or anxious behavior.

Lead researcher Dr. Sriram Chellappan, says, “The study is believed to be the first that uses actual Internet data, collected unobtrusively and anonymously, to associate Internet usage with signs of depression.” He continues by saying that previous research on Internet usage has relied on surveys a method considered to be highly inaccurate. “This is because when students themselves reported their volume and type of Internet activity, the amount of Internet usage data is limited because people’s memories fade with time.”

What Could This Mean For the Future of Depression and Anxiety Patients.

Researchers say that there could be interesting implications after reviewing the results of this study. They now say they are interested in using these results to develop software that could be installed on home computers to help decipher whether Internet usage patterns are indicative of depression and/or anxiety. The software in question would monitor usage and alert individuals if they are approaching the warning phases of anxiety and/or depression.





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