Following our Mental Health Awareness Month program (read our 5 Super Effective Stress-Shredding Techniques), we researched the topic of social media and its effect on mental health. Read on, because the results are positively surprising.
The team from the department of biomedical informatics at the University of Utah suggests that Reddit might have a positive effect on people coping with mental disorders such as acute stress or depression. In their research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), they examined emotional-related language of redditors (Reddit users) from the depression community.
Results had shown a steady progress in users’ language showing improvement in 9 of 10 prespecified linguistic dimensions: “positive emotion,” “negative emotion,” “anxiety,” “anger,” “sadness,” “first person singular,” “negation,” “swear words,” and “death,” all of which suggested that the emotion-related language usage of depression community members were improving either significantly or comparable to that with members of other online communities.
In their follow-up paper in JMIR focusing on the readability of the posts submitted by regular users (with at least four posts), researchers analyzed three subreddits dedicated to mental health conditions — r/depression, r/bipolar, and r/schizophrenia. The team wanted to determine how a prolonged participation have helped users to communicate their problems within the communities.
Researchers used three other subreddits — r/happy, r/bodybuilding, and r/loseit — as their control group to find that initially users of the mental health subreddits did have certain difficulties communicating clearly. Turns out that the longer they were using social media the more evident was the improvement in their lexicon and readability, all of which points to a better mental state.
The study author Albert Park told Healthcare Analytics News told that the more users contribute to their respective communities, e.g. shared posts and exchanged comments, the more noticeable was their shift toward more calm language and better articulation.
Although it’s too premature to claim that online presence is the only benefactor to positive changes, the results are promising and might help to build a more precise automated system helping people to cope with mental disorders online.
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It could predict whether a person’s condition worsened and alert moderators of the community.
Social media is far from perfect but maybe someday it will help us build a healthier society.
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