Twitter isn’t just for hashtags and 140-character limit posts anymore. Scientists have found a use for the social media site that will probably become a trending topic in medicine for the next few years.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that Twitter might actually be a good indicator for predicting rates of heart disease among its users. Since Twitter captures emotional expressions from its users through tweets, scientists have hypothesized that the popular social networking site can become an excellent predictor of heart disease, especially when analyzing tweets that express emotions and feelings like anger, stress and sadness.
The scientists have found that the number of negative tweets in a particular community — tweets that express anger, hatred and similar emotions — was positively linked to the rate of heart disease in the area of interest. On the other hand, scientists have also discovered that places where tweets were more positive and light-hearted were tied with lower rates of heart conditions.
Because of the findings, scientists have securely established a psychological link between Twitter posts and heart disease, effectively predicting with great accuracy the rates by which heart conditions occurred in a particular territory. The study also clarifies questions regarding the link between a person’s psychological state and their potential susceptibility to heart disease.
The study was led by scientist and graduate student Johannes Eichstaedt. According to Science Daily, Eichstaedt recognized the advantages of using Twitter as opposed to using typical psychometric tools such as surveys.
“Getting this data through surveys is expensive and time consuming, but, more important, you’re limited by the questions included on the survey,” said Eichstaedt. “You’ll never get the psychological richness that comes with the infinite variables of what language people choose to use.”
Margaret Kern, co-author for the study, further explained the intricate relation between a person’s psychological state and their susceptibility to heart conditions.
“Psychological states have long been thought to have an effect on coronary heart disease. For example, hostility and depression have been linked with heart disease at the individual level through biological effects. But negative emotions can also trigger behavioral and social responses; you are also more likely to drink, eat poorly and be isolated from other people which can indirectly lead to heart disease,” said Kern.
This isn’t the first study to tie Twitter with various scientific phenomenon. A report by USA Today last year revealed connections between Twitter use and the romantic health of a couple. Active Twitter users who fought more often on the social media site with their romantic partners were observed to have undergone relational problems than those who did not.
The University of Pennsylvania study will be published on Psychological Sciences.
[Image from Scott Beale/Flickr and University of Pennsylvania/Science Daily]