Can Twitter & Facebook Identify Postpartum Depression?

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Twitter research, Twitter health trendsThe researchers are on to us, friends. ;-) They’ve started to become interested in the impact social media can have on postpartum depression and anxiety, in terms of both identifying moms who might suffer and supporting them when they do.

The MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health recently reviewed studies that took a look at Twitter and Facebook’s potential role in PPD awareness and support. First, they looked at a recent study conducted by Microsoft in which they used Twitter to follow women who’d recently given birth and looked for emotional signs and behavioral clues in what they were tweeting. They found they could predict with pretty good accuracy which women were at high risk for postpartum depression. To learn more, click here. MGH also shared information on an older study in which Facebook status updates were used to help identify whether someone was suicidal.

I think there is so much potential here. So. Much. According to MediaBistro, eight out of ten moms (80 percent) use social media regularly, with 90 percent of those having visited Facebook in the past 30 days, and just over one-third (37 percent) hanging out on Twitter over that same period. A 2012 Arbiton/Edison study found that 58% of moms said the internet is more essential to their lives than newspapers, radio and television.

We are using social media. A lot. We are sharing what is happening to us, how we feel and when we need help in our tweets, on our blogs and in our status updates, including our fears and concerns about postpartum depression and having babies. And social media, in turn, is responding, jumping in to help where it can. I was enormously proud to see Postpartum Progress cited as a leading example by MGH of how this is happening. I hope those in the reproductive psychiatry research field will continue to look at the positive impact social media can have on women with postpartum depression and anxiety, and how we can partner with the healthcare providers, health insurers and other interested parties to support the mental health of pregnant and new moms.

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. I think it’s a very interesting idea but I have strong reservations about what you can deduce from Facebook. From my personal experience I stopped using Twitter around the time that my PPD began and I definitely chronicled my lack of sleep on Facebook, but that was about it. I was so determined to prove to everyone that I was ok! that everything was great! that none of my friends picked up that anything was wrong. Looking back of course I can pick out the critical junctures, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted the world of hurt I was in just by reading my posts.

    For me, a huge part of my depression was keeping on the mask of brittle perfection even as everything – my health and my marriage – were crashing down. My husband once said that I didn’t have PPD because there are pictures of me smiling throughout the time when I was depressed. But strangely, I didn’t ask him to get the camera on the days when I was sitting sobbing, nor can the camera see the intrusive thoughts that were rushing through my head while I was smiling dutifully to be part of the happy family that I knew I wanted, but just couldn’t reach out to.

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  1. […] Mental health researchers are using Twitter and Facebook to help identify moms with postpartum depression. (Just look at #ppdchat to see how social media helps –> Can Twitter & Facebook Identify #Postpartum Depression?  […]