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Researchers have found that college students who exhibit signs of depression use the Internet differently than other students. Data collected from the Missouri University of Science and Technology identified nine patterns of usage that might flag a depressed student.
“The study is believed to be the first that uses actual Internet data, collected unobtrusively and anonymously, to associate Internet usage with signs of depression,” explain Dr,. Sriram Chellappan, an assistant professor of computer science at Missouri S&T. Self-reporting data can be flawed. This data is factual and objective, pulled from the source.
Before data was collected, students were tested to determine if they were depressed. Researchers then analyzed the ways in which the depressed students used their computers. The depressed students used file sharing more frequently, sent email and chatted online more, used high band width applications, and switched frequently between applications. They also appeared to be more random in their choices going from chat rooms to email to games. This may indicate trouble focusing.
Chelleppan is hopeful of developing software which could be used on home computers to help identify usage patterns that might indicate depression. Early intervention is key to helping young people pull out of a spiral that could be potentially devastating. “The software could also be installed on campus networks to notify counselors of students whose Internet usage
patterns are indicative of depressive behavior,” he stated.
Not only students, but other vulnerable groups could benefit from the early detections. He named military veterans and the elderly as possible beneficiaries of the software.
Source: ScienceDaily, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
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