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Currently submitted to: JMIR Formative Research

Date Submitted: May 15, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: May 15, 2020 - Jul 10, 2020
(currently open for review)

Warning: This is an author submission that is not peer-reviewed or edited. Preprints - unless they show as "accepted" - should not be relied on to guide clinical practice or health-related behavior and should not be reported in news media as established information.

Facebook Depression Displays at Two Time Points: A Content Analysis

  • Megan Moreno; 
  • Quintin Gaus; 
  • Megan Wilt; 
  • Alina Arseniev-Koehler; 
  • Adrienne Ton; 
  • Molly Adrian; 
  • Ann VanderStoep; 



Depression is a prevalent and problematic mental disorder that often has its onset in adolescence. Despite this, depression screening of adolescents is not comprehensive. To aid in screenings, adolescent depression symptoms could be identified by viewing their social media as adolescents may use Facebook to disclose depression symptoms.


To investigate displayed depression symptoms on Facebook at two time points.


Content analysis of one year of Facebook data at two time points: Time 1 as adolescents (17-18 years) and Time 2 as young adults (20-22 years). Content analysis applied diagnostic criteria for depression to identify participants’ displayed depression symptoms. Qualitative and quantitative descriptive data for past 12 months at each time point, and non-parametric tests for comparisons.


A total of 78 participants’ Facebook profiles were examined, 51% were male. At Time 1, 48 of the 78 adolescents had a Facebook profile and 53.9% of adolescents displayed depression symptom references, with an average of 9.4 references and 3 symptom types. Common symptom types included sleep difficulties, an example post was “5 naps in a day, phew.” At Time 2, 44.9% of young adults displayed depression symptoms with an average of 4.6 references and 2 symptom types. Common symptom types included depressed mood, with example post “is really truly depressed.” There were no gender differences in prevalence or average number of displays at either time point.


Social media may be a valuable approach to observe and understand depression over the emerging adult developmental period.


Please cite as:

Moreno M, Gaus Q, Wilt M, Arseniev-Koehler A, Ton A, Adrian M, VanderStoep A

Facebook Depression Displays at Two Time Points: A Content Analysis

JMIR Preprints. 15/05/2020:20179


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