Someday your phone or laptop might truly be smart: It could diagnose your depression based on your Internet surfing patterns.
According to researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology, people suffering from depression tend to spend more time chatting and sharing files with others.
Two hundred and sixteen undergraduate students were monitored over a month’s time for actual Internet use. Higher scores on depression surveys — which were given at the beginning of the study — correlated with higher use. About 30 percent of the students met the minimum criteria for depression.
Previous research in this area relied on subjects’ memories, which is more imprecise than technology, said study co-author Sriram Chellappan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of computer science at the university.
“If you were asked how many times you looked at your email last month, it would be impossible to give an accurate answer,” Chellappan said.
Study volunteers — who were given pseudonyms at the beginning of the project to protect anonymity — were asked to fill out surveys containing several questions related to depression symptoms. The questions were written to hide the researchers’ interest in depression levels. Researchers then monitored subjects’ activity every time they signed on to the university server.
A paper describing the research, titled “Associating Depressive Symptoms in College Students with Internet Usage Using Real Internet Data,” has been accepted for publication in a future issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.