Depression can reveal itself in social media images

Use lots of blue-grey filters? It could be a sign of depression.

Use lots of blue-grey filters? It could be a sign of depression.

Feeling blue may colour the photos you collect and share with others, research has shown.

The pics will tend to be darker, greyer and, well, "bluer", scientists say.

Depression can reveal itself in social media images in the same way sighs and slumped shoulders may betray sadness, a study suggests.

Computer software was used to identify depressed people from the colour content of their Instagram photos with an accuracy of 70 per cent.

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In comparison, GPs have an average success rate for correctly diagnosing depression of 42 per cent.

Study co-leader Professor Chris Danforth, of the University of Vermont in the US, said: "This study is not yet a diagnostic test, not by a long shot, but it is a proof of concept of a new way to help people.

"This points toward a new method for early screening of depression and other emerging mental illnesses."

The scientists asked 166 volunteers recruited from Amazon's Mechanical Turk crowd sourcing site to share their Instagram feeds and mental health history.

The images were analysed using software programmed with the results of well- established psychological research into people's preferences for brightness, colour and shading.

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Another discovery was sad individuals also posted photos containing fewer faces per picture than the face photos of happier people.

This could be linked to reduced social interaction or reflect the fact depressed people took more self-portraits, the researchers said.

The study was published in the journal EPJ Data Science.

Where to get help

Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email

0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at

Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.


For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).


 - AAP

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