Posting selfies may not be as frivolous as first thought after new research has revealed Instagram photographs can contain clues signposting depression. Experts from Harvard University and the University of Vermont have designed software to identify features of depression through face detection, colour and brightness analysis. The research team then used the technology to examine nearly 44,000 photos posted by 166 people to detect depressed people on the photo-sharing network, and claimed it correctly identified depression in most cases. Researchers examined the use of photographic filters, a feature of Instagram, and found that depressed individuals were less likely to use filters, and preferred images that were blue, grey or dark. Those that did opt for a filter would pick 'Inkwell' which converts colour photos to black and white. They were also more likely to post photos with faces but, on average, the images contained fewer faces than those posted by healthy individuals who preferred tints that lighten such as 'Valencia'. Further, the more comments a post received the more likely it was to have been posted by someone depressed. While the opposite was true for likes received. Going forward, the researchers hope the findings will open up "new avenues for early screening and detection of mental illness." "The advent of social media presents a promising new opportunity for early detection and intervention in psychiatric disorders,” the report authors said in a statement. “Predictive screening methods have successfully analysed online media to detect a number of harmful health conditions. "(Our) findings demonstrate how visual social media may be harnessed to make accurate inferences about mental health." With 100 million new posts per day, researchers want to prioritise research into Instagram analysis for health screening as a way of opening up avenues to care which are "currently difficult or impossible to provide."
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