In this study, the authors analyzed the Reddit Mental Health Dataset to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. Using natural language processing (NLP), they analyzed trends and changes in language across 15 mental health support groups and 11 non-mental health groups during the initial stage of the pandemic. The authors found that r/HealthAnxiety showed spikes in posts about COVID-19 early on, while other support groups began posting about the pandemic two months later. They also found that specific mental health groups, such as those related to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, and anxiety, showed the most negative semantic change during the pandemic.
Using unsupervised clustering, the authors identified at-risk users and alarming themes, such as the doubling of the suicidality and loneliness clusters during the pandemic. They also discovered that concerns of a diverse set of individuals were converging in this unique moment in history. The study highlights the utility of textual analysis in uncovering mental health complaints as they appear in real time and identifying vulnerable groups during the ongoing pandemic and other world-changing events. The findings of this study could help provide better resources to the millions of users on Reddit.