Humans run on a circadian rhythm (or a sleep-wake cycle), which affects hormones, behaviors, and cognition. “Unsurprisingly, a stable daily activity cycle is important to maintain physical and mental health,” the study authors write. “In fact, disturbances of the human circadian rhythm are strongly associated with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder.”
By analyzing social media, this study identifies one phase of the sleep-wake cycle that appears to be altered by depression: that time of day between 7 p.m. and midnight, peaking at the 9-o’clock hour, when people diagnosed with depression tend to be significantly more active online than non-depressed people.
More research is needed to confirm the association, but researchers say social media may be a helpful tool in identifying mental health disorders, like depression, and intervening early.
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