The Psychology of Word Use in Depression Forums in English and in Spanish: Testing Two Text Analytic Approaches

Nairán Ram&iacuute;rez-Esparza, Cindy K. Chung, Ewa Kacewicz, and James W. Pennebaker

The present studies demonstrate two computerized approaches to examining the expression of depression on the Internet. Study 1 observed linguistic markers of depression in English and Spanish forums. English and Spanish posts by depressed (N=160) and non-depressed individuals (N=160) were collected from Internet forums using bulletin board systems (bbs). A computer program (LIWC2001) was used to compare linguistic categories across groups within the English and Spanish language. Study 2 analyzed the themes people use when talking about their depression in forums in English and Spanish. Posts by English speaking (N=404) and Spanish speaking depressed people (N=400) were collected from bbs. An automated inductive approach to content analysis was used to compare how the expression of depression varies across cultures. The results for Study 1 showed that linguistic cues previously associated with depression were found to be higher in depressed than in non-depressed posts in English and Spanish. Study 2 showed that depressed people who wrote in Spanish were more likely to mention relational concerns than depressed people who wrote in English, who were more likely to mention medicinal concerns. Implications for informational and support needs and concerns in psychotherapy vs. online support across cultures are addressed and discussed.

Subjects: 13. Natural Language Processing; 1. Applications

Submitted: Feb 15, 2008

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