Doing This to Photos? You Might Be Depressed

A new study says the photo filters you use in Instagram provide an accurate picture of your mental health. Find out more.

The photographic filter you choose in Instagram may reveal a surprising insight into the state of your mental health.

Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Vermont developed a computer script that analyzed 44,000 Instagram pictures from a group of 166 volunteers. What they found was surprising.

According to their study, Instagram photos provide a surprisingly accurate picture of an individual’s’ likelihood of being depressed. This might suggest “new avenues for early screening and detection of mental illness,” the researchers concluded.

The researchers found that Instagram users who are depressed tend to post photos that are bluer, grayer and darker than individuals not suffering from depression.

If you’re not familiar with Instagram, here’s how it works: You pick a photo. Then, within the Instagram app, you have the option to select a photographic filter, which changes the saturation, contrast and brightness, overall coloring, exposure, shadows and highlights of the selected photo.

After you’ve edited the photo, you can post it to Instagram.

Andrew Reece, the lead author and a graduate student at Harvard, tells NPR that photos shared by depressed Instagram-using individuals have commonalities:

“[People with depression] tend to have more comments on their posts, but fewer likes.

Depressed people were less likely to use any filters at all, but when they did use filters they went for Inkwell, which makes everything black and white.

And depressed people have fewer faces in their photos, but they tend to post more photos with faces.”

While more depressed individuals opted for the Inkwell filter, “healthy” participants often selected the Valencia filter, which “lightens the tint of photos,” according to the study.

The researchers say the computer script they developed to analyze the photos correctly identified depression 70 percent of the time, CBS-Miami reports.

What do you think of using Instagram photos to help identify mental health issues? Share your comments below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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