Online 24x7 may Lead to Depression

Depressive symptoms and the way students use their Internet can be linked

(RxWiki News) Students with depressive symptoms have a tendency to stream, chat and game a lot compared to students without symptoms. Is this true for other demographics as well?

Researchers examined Internet usage patterns for students with depressive symptoms.

This data could be the basis for developing software to detect the presence of depression.

"Take a break from the Internet and go for a jog!"

Researchers from Missouri University of Science and Technology, led by Sriram Chellappan PhD, assistant professor of computer science, compared Internet usage patterns of the students on campus with depressive symptoms and those without.

The computer science group teamed up with the Psychological Sciences community on campus and looked at nine different usage patterns of 216 undergraduate students over the course of a month. The initial survey of the students with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale revealed that 30 percent qualified for depressive symptoms.

Researchers then looked at usage like chat and email habits, file-sharing, number of sites visited, frequency of repeat site visits, streaming, gaming and bounce rates.

Chellappan states, “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.”

Past research on this subject used surveys, where participants’ responses were less accurate than the hard data collected by Internet monitoring.

Results of the study show that students who tested higher for depressive symptoms tended to chat, email, file-share, stream, game, and bounce in more random patterns than students that tested low for depressive symptoms.

The random patterns may indicate difficulty in concentrating, which is a symptom often associated with depression, according to researchers.

It is Chellappan’s hope that this data can provide the basis for developing a software for home use to alert users of depressive behavior patterns.

“The software would be a cost-effective and an in-home tool that could proactively prompt users to seek medical help if their Internet usage patterns indicate possible depression. The software could also be installed on campus networks to notify counselors of students whose Internet usage patterns are indicative of depressive behavior.” said Chellappan.

This study will be published in the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. Funding for this study was provided by the National Science foundation, the Missouri University of Science & Technology Intelligent Systems Center and the Mary K. Finley Missouri Endowment. No conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
May 17, 2012