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Big Data in Mental Health Research

Big data in mental health research – do the ns justify the means? Using large data-sets of electronic health records for mental health research (2017)

P. Schofield



Advances in information technology and data storage, so-called ‘big data’, have the potential to dramatically change the way we do research. We are presented with the possibility of whole-population data, collected over multiple time points and including detailed demographic information usually only available in expensive and labour-intensive surveys, but at a fraction of the cost and effort. Typically, accounts highlight the sheer volume of data available in terms of terabytes (1012) and petabytes (1015) of data while charting the exponential growth in computing power we can use to make sense of this. Presented with resources of such dizzying magnitude it is easy to lose sight of the potential limitations when the amount of data itself appears unlimited. In this short account I look at some recent advances in electronic health data that are relevant for mental health research while highlighting some of the potential pitfalls.


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