What Do Your Instagram Posts Say About Your Mental Health?

Can the photos you post on social media reveal information about your mental health? A new research study might have the answer. 

Researchers Andrew Reece at Harvard University and Chris Danforth  at the University of Vermont found a significant connection between the colours in photos posted on Instagram and  an individual's mental health status. The results were so significant that Reece and Danforth claim these findings could be used to detect early signs of mental illness. 

According to the study, data from 166 Instagrammers and 43,000 photos was analyzed to create an algorithm based on colour and brightness, use of filters, and metadata including number of comments and likes. They were able to predict the Instagram users that might develop depression correctly 70% of the time (early diagnosis rates through family physicians are typically found 54% of the time).

Researchers found that people who were more likely to have depression were more likely to share darker, bluer, and more faded photos on their feeds. People who had depression also had more comments on their posts, but received fewer "likes". People with depression also were less likely to use filters, but when they did frequently they went with Inkwell, which makes everything black and white. 

Bluer, Grayer, and Darker   

Bluer, Grayer, and Darker


Now of course, a computer algorithm can never diagnose or rule out depression like a clinician would. However, maybe programs like this can help clinicians quickly identify people who are struggling and need help. But could this actually be causing more harm than good? If there are ways to monitor our social media,  at what point does the line get crossed?  Who else could be monitoring this? Could the things one posts come back and affect someone's employment or insurability? Does your employer follow you on Instagram? Companies could already be using this data.  After all, Tweets, Tumblr, Facebook and many Instagram posts are freely available to anyone on the Internet.

What do you think? We would love to hear from you!



Chen, A (2016 August 24). Instagramming in Black or White? Could be You're Depressed. Your Health. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/08/24/490941032/instagramming-in-black-and-white-could-be-youre-depressed