Your Instagram Pics Can Reveal If You're Depressed, Unsettling New Study Says

There's a reason they say "a picture is worth a thousand words." In the age of selfies, hashtags, and filters, everyone's lives are on full display, and as you'd imagine, feelings transcend beyond the flash of a phone camera. A new study examined emotions in relation to social media and links depression to particular Instagram posts, so your feed is actually giving away more details than you'd think.


EJP Data Science examined 166 people and 43,950 posts before making conclusions, though it claims the results are overwhelming. Those experiencing some sort of depression tended to opt for darker colors in their Instagram photos, whereas those who weren't gravitated toward more vivid colors. This analogy isn't terribly surprising, but the fact that the correlation between the photos and the individuals was so strong that researchers were able to identify signs of depression before a diagnosis is definitely shocking.

But color isn't the only aspect the researchers considered. According to the study, they dove into the social interaction captured in the photos as well. It states,

Depression is strongly associated with reduced social activity. As Instagram is used to share personal experiences, it is reasonable to infer that posted photos with people in them may capture aspects of a user's social life.

At the end of the study, researchers noted the photos' likes, the photographers' posting patterns, and the use of filters. The concluding findings revealed,

The more comments Instagram posts received, the more likely they were posted by depressed participants, but the opposite was true for likes received. In the All-data model, higher posting frequency was also associated with depression. Depressed participants were more likely to post photos with faces, but had a lower average face count per photograph than healthy participants. Finally, depressed participants were less likely to apply Instagram filters to their posted photos.

Pictures are powerful, and Instagram certainly proves it.