Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers with some help from Harvard Medical School analyzed the mental states of people by using various Reddit subforums aka Subreddits. The researchers used Natural Language Processing (NLP) to categorize and analyze trends in 26 subreddits.
The subreddits consisted of 15 threads like the largest Reddit mental health support groups like r/schizophrenia, r/SuicideWatch, and r/Depression among others. The other 11 subreddits were related to non-mental health groups like r/PersonalFinance and r/conspiracy.
The researchers extracted posts from these subreddits starting from 2018 up to 2020. The posts are from 826,961 different users. These were used for detecting the general trend before the spread of COVID-19. Then the change in the sentiment, and other factors, was analyzed using NLP and supervised Machine Learning (ML).
Their studies revealed that the r/HealthAnxiety subreddit showed high activity during the start of the pandemic. Other subreddits showed less activity comparatively during the start but they also saw COVID-19-related activity after 2 months. They found that support groups related to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, and anxiety showed the most negative semantic change during the pandemic out of all mental health groups.
The researchers said, “We found the suicidality and loneliness clusters more than doubled in the number of posts during the pandemic. Specifically, the support groups for borderline personality disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder became significantly associated with the suicidality cluster. Furthermore, clusters surrounding self-harm and entertainment emerged.”
This study shows that a simple analysis of an online thread can reveal the extent of the mental effects that the pandemic has imposed on the people which is largely ignored since the priority is stopping the virus from spreading.
If you are feeling such mental problems, you can visit the subreddits yourself but we advise visiting a professional.