Characterizing and Predicting Postpartum Depression from Shared Facebook Data

CSCW 2014

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The birth of a child is a major milestone in the life of parents. We leverage Facebook data shared voluntarily by 165 new mothers as streams of evidence for characterizing their postnatal experiences. We consider multiple measures including activity, social capital, emotion, and linguistic style in participants’ Facebook data in pre- and postnatal periods. Our study includes detecting and predicting onset of post-partum depression (PPD). The work complements recent work on detecting and predicting significant postpartum changes in behavior, language, and affect from Twitter data. In contrast to prior studies, we gain access to ground truth on postpartum experiences via self-reports and a common psychometric instrument used to evaluate PPD. We develop a series of statistical models to predict, from data available before childbirth, a mother’s likelihood of PPD. We corroborate our quantitative findings through interviews with mothers experiencing PPD. We find that increased social isolation and lowered availability of social capital on Facebook, are the best predictors of PPD in mothers.