From the July-September 2014 issue

Affective and Content Analysis of Online Depression Communities

By Thin Nguyen, Dinh Phung, Bo Dao, Svetha Venkatesh, and Michael Berk

Featured article thumbnail imageA large number of people use online communities to discuss mental health issues, thus offering opportunities for new understanding of these communities. This paper aims to study the characteristics of online depression communities (CLINICAL) in comparison with those joining other online communities (CONTROL). We use machine learning and statistical methods to discriminate online messages between depression and control communities using mood, psycholinguistic processes and content topics extracted from the posts generated by members of these communities. All aspects including mood, the written content and writing style are found to be significantly different between two types of communities. Sentiment analysis shows the clinical group have lower valence than people in the control group. For language styles and topics, statistical tests reject the hypothesis of equality on psycholinguistic processes and topics between two groups. We show good predictive validity in depression classification using topics and psycholinguistic clues as features. Clear discrimination between writing styles and contents, with good predictive power is an important step in understanding social media and its use in mental health.

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