Social media has transformed our society tremendously. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have reshaped communication and the spread of images, information, and ideas. It is a power that has been tapped into by practitioners in a variety of fields, including PR.

 

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania is now demonstrating how social media’s power of communication — Twitter, specifically — can come into play as a valuable medical tool. Particularly, the study examines how Twitter can predict heart disease.

 

In this study, researchers sought to examine the correlation between the psychological and emotional atmosphere of a community as reflected by tweets from the region and that community’s subsequent heart disease risk.

 

These charts compare data collected by the CDC regarding actual cases of heart disease and researchers' predictions based on Twitter language analysis (sciencedaily.com)

These charts compare data collected by the CDC regarding actual cases of heart disease and researchers’ predictions based on Twitter language analysis (sciencedaily.com)

While it has long been recognized that a sound psychological environment is crucial in promoting good health, it has always been difficult to measure this factor. Researchers have found that by analyzing language use in tweets on Twitter, it is possible to associate the frequent expression of negative emotions in a particular region with an overall negative psychological atmosphere in that community.

 

Such tweets suggest particularly high levels of anger, depression, and stress, all of which take a negative toll on cardiovascular health. As such, the more negative tweets coming out of a particular geographical area, the higher the risk for heart disease generally is in that community.

 

Through the study, researchers have demonstrated the fascinating power that Twitter can have in ultimately predicting heart disease by helping identify the psychological state of a community.

 

Of course, there are variables which may impact the accuracy of this method, such as social influences on emotional expression through tweets. However, this study nevertheless demonstrates the importance of recognizing novel ways to utilize social media’s presence and power in modern society for purposes other than communication. As we continue to tap into that power, it will be incredible to see how social media can continue transforming society.

 

What do you think of the connection that University of Pennsylvania researchers have drawn between Twitter and heart disease risk? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi