Researchers monitor Internet usage patterns to detect depression

The time one has begun to spend on Internet has seemingly increased over the past few years and now a new study shows how this time can be used to gauge the stress levels of people. Missouri Science & Technology researchers reveal the way we use our smartphones and laptops will probably be used to detect depression in people. The study states that the way depressed people use the Internet differs from that by others and the former are likely to spend more time chatting online and indulge in file sharing. 


The study monitored the Internet usage of 216 college students and correlated these patterns with higher scores on depression surveys. A previous study on similar lines showed the link between depression and Internet use, but the approach used was inaccurate. It required people to remember how many times they checked their emails and so on. In the new study, Chellappan and his colleagues asked volunteers to fill out surveys containing several questions designed to unearth depression symptoms. Moreover, the questions asked ensured that the students wouldn’t realize that the researchers were interested to know their depression levels.

Hack to protest (Image Credit: Getty Images)

Too much online chatting...symptom of depression.. (Image Credit: Getty Images)


We have identified that average packets per flow, peer-to-peer (octets, packets and duration), chat octets, mail (packets and duration), ftp duration, and remote file octets show statistically significant correlations with depressive symptoms. Additionally, Mann-Whitney U-tests revealed that average packets per flow, remote file octets, chat (octets, packets and duration) and flow duration entropy have a statistically significant difference in the mean values across groups with and without depressive symptoms,” reports the study. 

The researchers then tracked and scrutinized the Internet usage pattern of users each time they logged into the university server. However, all the monitoring was done anonymously and every volunteer was given a pseudonym at the beginning of the study and were identified only by the fictitious name. The new findings reveal that there could be an early warning system, to alert people that they are getting depressed. The study suggests that a person’s Internet usage pattern can be scrutinized to detect symptoms of depression in them.

Published Date: May 21, 2012 05:45 pm | Updated Date: May 21, 2012 05:45 pm