The colour of your Instagram posts may indicate you are depressed

Yellow Blue

People who aren't depressed, on the other hand, preferred the Valencia filter, which brightens the image.

We were able to observe these differences reliably, even when only looking at depressed users' posts made prior to receiving a clinical diagnosis of depression.

Scientists in the USA say they have created machine learning algorithms that can identify depressed people by scanning for "clues" in Instagram photos.

There have been other studies which have examined whether social media can display whether the user is in fact depressed.

As part of the research programme, scientists at Harvard and Vermont Universities have designed a computer programme to identify people who suffer from depression, merely by monitoring the frequency at which they post and the types of material they share on social media.

One average the depressed participants posted photos that were more frequently dark, and more blue and gray than their control counterpart participants.

Prof Danforth and USA colleague Andrew Reece from Harvard University wrote in a blog post accompanying the study: 'Pixel analysis of the photos in our dataset revealed that depressed individuals in our sample tended to post photos that were, on average, bluer, darker, and greyer than those posted by healthy individuals'.

The computer program's detection rate proved more reliable than that of primary care doctors, according to the study authors.

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We all know that social media can have a negative effect on our mental health and self esteem - seeing endless flawless Instagram snaps of slim models with tanned limbs in exotic locations can often lead anxiety, self-worth and self-confidence issues.

"There are reasons why depression is called blue, and why people associate red with raging, and why people say depression is like a dark or black cloud", Galynker said.

The program wound up accurately assessing depression in Instagram users 70 percent of the time, the findings showed.

"Obviously you know your friends better than a computer", said Prof Danforth. The volunteers provided the researchers with information about past diagnoses of depression and responded to a questionnaire created to assess a person's level of depression.

"This study is not yet a diagnostic test, not by a long shot", said Danforth, "but it is a proof of concept of a new way to help people", Danforth added. Ideally, Danforth says the best outcome of technology like this is getting those individuals the medical support that they need.

"The end goal of this would be creating something that monitors a person's voice, how they're moving around and what their social network looks like ― all the stuff we already reveal to our phones", Danforth said.

The study was published online today (Aug. 7) in the journal EPJ Data Science.

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