A therapist isn’t the only way to gauge your mental health. A new study suggests the way we speak might be an indicator of our mental well-being.
Researchers from the University of Reading have detected certain patterns in the way depressed people tend to speak. The study analyzed the words of subjects like Kurt Cobain and Sylvia Plath as well as the natural language of people with depression.
Depressed subjects were more likely to use words with negative connotations, including “lonely,” “sad,” or “miserable.” Researchers, however, found that a stronger predictor of depressive symptoms was the usage of first-person singular pronouns, like “I” rather than “we,” “he,” “she,” or “they.” This suggests subjects were focused on personal problems rather than those around them, which has been previously linked with depression.
The study also discovered that words like “always,” “nothing,” or “completely” were “found to be better markers from mental health forums than either pronouns or negative emotion words.”
This new development could help young adults detect depressive symptoms earlier in life, both from analyzing their own speech and others’. Earlier detection could prompt treatment, helping the 65 percent of people facing severe depression symptoms without receiving professional help – a significant amount, considering over 16 million American adults experienced a major depressive episode in one year alone.
Next time you find yourself in a conversation, take note of the other person’s language as well as your own. While these signs aren’t guaranteed indicators of mental health, they’re worth considering for the long run.