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Internet patterns can signal depression, study says


Reporters use laptop computers, iPads and paper and pen to take notes during a panel discussion organized by NetCoalition about the Protection IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) at the US Capitol on Jan. 19, 2012.


Chip Somodevilla

A new study shows how people who are depressed use the internet differently that those without depression.

Researchers from the Missouri University of Science and Technology wrote in The New York Times "pattern of Internet use says something about you. Specifically, our research suggests it can offer clues to your mental well-being."

The study, to be published in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, showed a few patterns: those surveyed with higher levels of depression tended to have a high level of music and movie sharing, check email frequently and use use email often.

Study co-authors Sriran Chellappan and Raghavendra Kotikalapudi wrote in the Times this supports previous research by "psychologists Janet Morahan-Martin and Phyllis Schumacher [that] has shown that frequent checking of e-mail may relate to high levels of anxiety, which itself correlates with depressive symptoms."

The authors also said that depressed people tend to switch apps often -  meaning they go from email to movies to playing games - which could indicate problems focusing.

Researchers monitored 216 college students and asked them to fill out a questionnaire, according to CNET.

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"This didn't mean snooping on what the students were looking at or whom they were e-mailing; it merely meant monitoring how they were using the Internet - information about traffic flow that the university customarily collects for troubleshooting network connections and such,"  the researchers told CNET.