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New Study Utilizes Big Data to Understand Mental Health

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New Study Utilizes Big Data to Understand Mental Health

Researchers are utilizing big data to better understand the issues surrounding the impact mental health has on young people.

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Last year, I wrote about a fascinating project involving researchers from Swansea University. They were looking to utilize big data to better understand the issues surrounding the impact mental health has on young people.

They analyzed data from 358,000 people aged between six and 18 years of age living in Wales between 2003 and 2013. The data was gleaned from GPs and NHS primary care services.

The data revealed that antidepressant use rose significantly, with depression symptoms doubling in that time. Interestingly, however, actual diagnoses of depression fell by roughly a quarter.

"These findings add to the growing debate over increasing prescribing of anti-depressants to children and young people. The main issue is whether they are being prescribed appropriately. However, it's worth remembering that there has been historical undertreatment of mental disorders in young people. It's important that each individual young person is listened to and gets the right kind of help for their problem," the researchers say.

Mental Health Comes to Biobank

Such a big data approach to medicine is something that I've touched upon numerous times, with the UK Biobank a pioneer in the space. Until recently, however, the enormous repository of health data contained at the facility has lacked anything of note on the mental health of volunteers.

That has changed, however, with a study undertaken by researchers from King's College London providing solid data on the mental health of 157,366 volunteers.

"Our study suggests that UK Biobank could be a powerful tool for mental health research, and since it is open to all health researchers for work in the public good, we hope to inspire both existing and new users of UK Biobank," the researchers say. "Our mental health questionnaire demonstrates the substantial burden of mental disorders. Given the known impact of mental health on physical health, mental health data should interest researchers from every biomedical specialty looking at associations with health and disease."

The team believes that the rich dataset will provide them a number of opportunities. For instance, they hope to understand whether depression is one illness or a range of related ones.

Mental health is slowly beginning to gain parity with physical health, and it's pleasing to see that the field is also beginning to utilize data-based approaches to better understanding the multiple facets of good mental health.

mental health ,big data ,healthcare ,data analytics

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