Patterns of Internet Usage May Signify Depression

Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) say students with symptoms of depression have different tendencies using the Internet than those with no signs of depression, according to a recent news article. The university’s computer network collected data from user’s actual Internet patterns and then identified nine different patterns of usage that might signify depression. One example showed students that displayed depression symptoms tended to use it more randomly and frequently switched between several applications that their counterparts. Lead researcher, Dr. Sriram Chellappan says the findings provided new insight into the correlation between depression and Internet use when compared to previously existing studies. Chellappan’s study is thought to be the first one that uses actual data from the Internet that is collected anonymously and inconspicuously among users with depression symptoms. Researchers note that anonymity was important because in past studies when students were asked to report their volume and types of Internet activity the data is imperfect because our memories fade over time. Chellappan and his team collected one month’s worth of data for over 200 undergraduate students at Missouri S&T. The students involved were asked to hide their identities and use pseudonyms to stay anonymous. Before the data was collected, the researchers tested the students to see if they showed any signs for depression. Then they analyzed data usage of the participants and found the ones with depression symptoms were those who used the Internet completely different than the others. Students with depression symptoms definitely used the Internet more randomly by switching between applications, maybe from chat rooms to email to games. Chellappan believes this randomness might be due to trouble with concentration which is often a characteristic linked to depression.

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