Researchers at Deakin University in Australia mined a Reddit post and found that dads’ posting behavior in the period around the birth of their child could be a warning sign for depression.
One in five fathers experiences anxiety in the perinatal period – the time before and after their baby is born. One in ten people also experience depression.
However, support for fathers’ mental health in the perinatal period is limited, according to the study published in JMIR Pediatrics & Parenting.
“This is a huge public health problem that is not really being addressed,” said Dr Sam Teague, who until recently was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Deakins Center for Social and Early Emotional Development.
Research in this area is also limited – some researchers focus on fathers, and those who struggle to find fathers to attend to between their work and new family commitments.
Thus Teague analyzed thousands of posts on Reddit’s parenthood forums r/Daddit and r/PreDaddit to better understand what problems dads face and the kind of support they need.
Dads usually post about milestones like pregnancy announcements and activities like parental bonding, teag. But the topic of most users and posts were the challenges of parenthood: struggle, budget and sleep.
As Teague reports, “One thing that stood out was that men preferred to share informational support with each other. This is where they share specific advice or information to solve a problem.”
Teague’s machine learning algorithm can predict with about 70 percent accuracy which dads will use more language that reflects postpartum depression based on their prepartum posting habits.
“The impact on social connectedness is a key symptom of depression. It is expressed online through the father’s posting behavior,” she says.
Reddit users were quick to respond to posts about general challenges, such as problems in a family environment or broader social issues. But when posters shared personal challenges such as mental health problems, the community was less available to help, Teague said.
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