A new study has found that people’s web surfing patterns have a strong correlation with their mental well being.
More specifically, people who are depressed tend to check their mail compulsively, watch a lot of videos and switch between multiple internet applications more frequently than their peers.
The study was conducted by Sriram Chellappan, assistant professor of computer science at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and Raghavendra Kotikalapudi, software development engineer, and tracked the internet habits of 216 undergraduate volunteers at Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2011.
“There were two major findings. First, we identified several features of Internet usage that correlated with depression,” wrote Sriram Chellappan and Raghavendra Kotikalapudi in an article for the New York Times. “Our second major discovery was that there were patterns of Internet usage that were statistically high among participants with depressive symptoms compared with those without symptoms.”
Researchers say the study results could be used to develop software that tracks users' browsing patterns on mobile phones and campus networks. Such software could alert parents and university counselors when students display browsing habits that are indicative of depression.
The study is due to be published in the next issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.
In 2010, two large-scale studies drew parallels between internet use and depression. The first involved 1,319 participants and concluded that “those who regard themselves as dependent on the Internet report high levels of depressive symptoms.” The second looked at the internet habits of 1,041 teenagers in China over a nine month period and revealed “that young people who are initially free of mental health problems but use the Internet pathologically could develop depression as a consequence.”