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Using machine learning to track the pandemic’s impact on mental health

Dealing with a global pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of millions of people. A team of MIT and Harvard University researchers has shown that they can measure those effects by analyzing the language that people use to express their anxiety online. Using machine learning to analyze the text of more than 800,000 Reddit posts, the researchers were able to identify changes in the tone and content of language that people used as the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic progressed, from January to April of 2020. Their analysis revealed several key changes in conversations about mental health, including an overall increase in discussion about anxiety and suicide.