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Browse, Curlewis et al, 2019 JMIR mental health.pdf (112.81 kB)

Public Opinions on Using Social Media Content to Identify Users With Depression and Target Mental Health Care Advertising: Mixed Methods Survey

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Version 2 2023-06-07, 08:27
Version 1 2023-06-07, 06:42
journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 08:27 authored by Elizabeth FordElizabeth Ford, Keegan Curlewis, Akkapon Wongkoblap, Vasa Curcin
Background: Depression is a common disorder that still remains underdiagnosed and undertreated in the UK National Health Service. Charities and voluntary organizations offer mental health services, but they are still struggling to promote these services to the individuals who need them. By analyzing social media (SM) content using machine learning techniques, it may be possible to identify which SM users are currently experiencing low mood, thus enabling the targeted advertising of mental health services to the individuals who would benefit from them. Objective: This study aimed to understand SM users’ opinions of analysis of SM content for depression and targeted advertising on SM for mental health services. Methods: A Web-based, mixed methods, cross-sectional survey was administered to SM users aged 16 years or older within the United Kingdom. It asked participants about their demographics, their usage of SM, and their history of depression and presented structured and open-ended questions on views of SM content being analyzed for depression and views on receiving targeted advertising for mental health services. Results: A total of 183 participants completed the survey, and 114 (62.3%) of them had previously experienced depression. Participants indicated that they posted less during low moods, and they believed that their SM content would not reflect their depression. They could see the possible benefits of identifying depression from SM content but did not believe that the risks to privacy outweighed these benefits. A majority of the participants would not provide consent for such analysis to be conducted on their data and considered it to be intrusive and exposing. Conclusions: In a climate of distrust of SM platforms’ usage of personal data, participants in this survey did not perceive that the benefits of targeting advertisements for mental health services to individuals analyzed as having depression would outweigh the risks to privacy. Future work in this area should proceed with caution and should engage stakeholders at all stages to maximize the transparency and trustworthiness of such research endeavors.


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JMIR Mental Health




JMIR Publications





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