Students appear to be more depressed than we ever thought possible. A new study shows that around 15% of college students suffer from depression – significantly more than the 10% found in previous studies. But the “twist” in this new research is that the data was collected only via email. Older studies have always used face-to-face research methods.

It seems that people are more honest and open when it comes to email than when they are in front of people. Indeed, this study confirms earlier work showing that online we are more honest than we are in the “real world”. Even though there is a propensity to lie more in emails than on social networking profiles, this study of depression in students does add to the growing data which show that when it comes to honesty, we simply are better at it electronically than when face-to-face.

All of the growing evidence flies in the face of the notion that we are liars online. The popular press would have you believe that everyone you bump into online is pretending, that they are living out some fantasy life and that you cannot trust a word they say. Now, this new study, like others before it shows, that you should place more trust in online communication than you should in what you read in the “real world” newspapers.

So, when it comes to market research for your business, how much are you conducting online and how much offline? The chances are the data you are collecting offline is less accurate than you might get if you performed your research using online tools. Your targets are much more likely to be honest if you use online market research tools, it seems.

Three popular survey tools you can use are:

But you can also use Twitter for surveys and questionnaires and interview people via Twitter. If you don’t trust third-party services, you can host your own survey software. If you use Microsoft Outlook there is even an add-on you can use to conduct questionnaires directly from your email system.

In fact, there is no shortage of methods by which you can conduct your market research online. If you want more accurate and honest results than you might achieve face-to-face, it will be worthwhile investigating some of these systems.

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