Social Media Claims To Help Predict Postpartum Depression.. What Do You Think?

While many people deride social media sites like Facebook and Twitter — claiming they have eroded personal interaction and threaten privacy — some psychologists are claiming the data collected from these sites can be beneficial.

James Pennebaker, president of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), says the information “is lending insight into everything from mapping modern family dynamics to predicting postpartum depression (PPD).”

Naturally, it’s postpartum depression that holds the greatest interest for me.

Another researcher, Eric Horvitz, scientist and director of Microsoft Research lab in Redmond, Wash., used Twitter to identify 376 new mothers who might be at risk of postpartum depression. They analyzed some 36,000 tweets during the 3 months leading up to the births and some 40,000 tweets for 3 months after the births to detect changes in mood and behavior.

Horvitz said, “For example, one potential indicator of postpartum depression is a shift from using third-person pronouns to first-person pronouns. Other indicators include a decrease in volume of tweets, a shrinking in the moms’ social networks, and use of words indicating negative mood.”

While the researchers still need to test their model with women diagnosed with PPD, his team believes it “can forecast significant postpartum shifts in mood in new moms using only observations available before the births.” Horvitz claims the model can “identify mothers at risk of having such dramatic mood shifts as accurately as 70%.”

One-to-one interaction and privacy issues are still major challenges that concern me when turning to social media to interpret or predict behavior. But, as a psychologist treating patients with depressive disorders, I’m keeping my mind open to new ways to aid those who desperately need help.

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~ by ppdsus on March 10, 2014.

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