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Your Instagram Photos Can Predict Your Mental Health, Says New Study

Your Instagram Photos Can Predict Your Mental Health, Says New Study

Have you ever wondered what your Instagram photos tell about you? Yes, we can say things such as a particular Instagrammer is a foodie or a traveler, by looking at their photos.

But a new study says your Instagram photos can or show your mental health state. Researchers can find markers of depression by analyzing the filters of their photos. They can even predict if someone will be diagnosed with clinical depression.

The paper "Instagram photos reveal predictive markers of depression" was authored by Andrew G Reecer and Christopher M Danforth, and was published on August 8, 2017. The authors by Andrew G Reecer and Christopher M Danforth are from the Harvard University and the University of Vermont respectively.

They say there is a good reason to prioritize research into Instagram analysis for health screening. Instagram members currently contribute almost 100 million new posts per day. And Instagram's rate of new users joining has recently outpaced Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and even Facebook.

The researchers used Instagram data from 166 individuals. They applied machine learning tools to successfully identify markers of depression. They then computationally extracted statistical features from 43,950 participant Instagram photos, using color analysis, metadata components, and algorithmic face detection. "Resulting models outperformed general practitioners' average unassisted diagnostic success rate for depression", says the paper.

These results held even when the analysis was restricted to posts made before depressed individuals were first diagnosed. They even included measures of hue, saturation, and brightness in the analysis, and tracked the use of Instagram filters in the study.

"People in our sample who were depressed tended to post photos that, on a pixel-by-pixel basis, were bluer, darker and grayer on average than healthy people", said Andrew Reece to the New York Times. The study found that depressed Instagrammers used fewer Instagram filters and generally tended to choose 'Inkwell' filter. Inkwell filter which drains photos of its color, making it black-and-white. This led to the conclusion that depressed individuals preferred darker, grayer colors.

This is substantiated by another study done by Barrick, Taylor, and Correa, titled " Color sensitivity and mood disorders: biology or metaphor?". They found a positive correlation between self-identification with depression and a tendency to perceive one's surroundings as gray or lacking in color.

On the contrary, healthy users tended to prefer the filter 'Valencia'. 'Valencia' lightens a photos' tint, as they generally preferred brighter, more vivid colors.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

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