Background: Depression is a debilitating disorder that at present lacks a reliable biomarker to aid in diagnosis and early detection. Recent advances in computational analytic approaches have opened up new avenues in developing such a biomarker by taking advantage of the wealth of information that can be extracted from a person’s speech.
Objective: The current review provides an overview of the latest findings in the rapidly evolving field of computational language analysis for the detection of depression. We cover a wide range of both acoustic and content-related linguistic features, data types (i.e., spoken and written language), and data sources (i.e., lab settings, social media, and smartphone-based). We put special focus on the current methodological advances with regard to feature extraction and computational modeling techniques. Furthermore, we pay attention to potential hurdles in the implementation of automatic speech analysis.
Conclusion: Depressive speech is characterized by several anomalies, such as lower speech rate, less pitch variability and more self-referential speech. With current computational modeling techniques, such features can be used to detect depression with an accuracy of up to 91%. The performance of the models is optimized when machine learning techniques are implemented that suit the type and amount of data. Recent studies now work towards further optimization and generalizability of the computational language models to detect depression. Finally, privacy and ethical issues are of paramount importance to be addressed when automatic speech analysis techniques are further implemented in, for example, smartphones. Altogether, computational speech analysis is well underway towards becoming an effective diagnostic aid for depression.