NHMRC funds Black Dog Institute research into using social media to identify depression markers
Published: 12 December, 2018
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has awarded the Black Dog Institute a grant to research using social media to detect early signs of depression as part of its 2018 Project Grants.
Led by Dr Bridianne O’Dea, Research Fellow at the Black Dog Institute, the three-year project will look at individuals’ social media in conjunction with their mental health by analysing the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘emotion’ of online discussions.
“Worldwide, social media is a popular vehicle for communication,” said Dr O’Dea. “This study proposes that social media data, which is generated naturally and in the daily course of people’s lives, can be used to identify individuals who are at risk of depression.”
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major health and economic burden with research showing that the early detection of depression can reduce the disease burden by 23%.
“This project will allow for the improved detection of depression risk and a greater understanding of actual, real-time ‘descent’ into depressive states,” said Dr O’Dea.
“It will also provide a predictive system capable of informing clinical decisions about the need for treatment and a contemporary and validated approach for detecting depression in the community.”
The project grant demonstrates significant investment in new and novel areas of research for mental health and represents both government and peer-reviewed support for using social media for mental health.
“The Black Dog Institute is a leader in the area of e-mental health research development,” said Scientia Professor Helen Christensen, Director of the Black Dog Institute. “With one in four Australians developing a mental health issue in any one-year, it is vital that we look at new and innovative ways to intervene and prevent mental health issues from occurring.
“This research study has the potential to significantly improve our ability to identify and treat those with depression by utilising the devices we all carry around in our pockets,” said Professor Christensen.
The research study will be a collaboration in partnership with Professor Svetha Venkatesh’s team in Pattern Recognition and Data Analytics (PRaDA) at Deakin University, and Professor Nick Glozier at the Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney.
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