Switching quickly from Spotify to e-mail to Facebook can be a telltale sign of depression. A recent study extensively correlates specific web habits, such as jumping between different applications, with depression.
The study by Missouri University of Science and Technology associates observed how 216 university undergraduates surfed the web for a month. About 30 percent of the students had depression, according to the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, an official screening test for the mental condition. (These numbers match the national average. Depression affects about 10 percent to 40 percent of the national population of college students at one time.)
This may be the first study relating depression and Internet use, according to the researchers who looked at a huge range of online activity including downloads, duration, sharing and flow.
Depression correlates with "common symptoms of Internet addiction" such as excessive video and gaming activity. The study shows depressed students are also connected to the Internet more frequently than their healthy peers. Depressed students also visit more health-related websites, chatrooms, social networks and gambling centers more often.
The data showed online peer-to-peer usage also increased with depression. These students share more music, movies and photos online. They also seek support in chatrooms "to overcome their feelings of isolation." Other web symptoms include excessively checking email and late-night usage.
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"Subsequent analysis identified a number of fine grained Internet usage features that associate with depressive symptoms," Sriram Chellappan, one of the study's authors said. "Such features may yield insights towards developing software for personalized, early, in-home and cost-effective mental health care."