Believe it or not! Your favourite microblogging site Twitter can accurately predict a community’s rate of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide, researchers have found.
Studies have identified many factors that contribute to the risk of heart disease: Most common are traditional ones, like low income or smoking and also psychological reasons like stress.
The social networking site can capture more information about heart disease risk than many traditional factors combined, as it also characterises the psychological atmosphere of a community.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania said, they found that expressions of negative emotions such as anger, stress and fatigue in a US county’s tweets were associated with higher heart disease risk. On the other hand, positive emotions like excitement and optimism were associated with lower risk.
The study was led by Johannes Eichstaedt, a graduate student in the School of Arts & Science’s Department of Psychology, and included Margaret Kern, an assistant professor at the University of Melbourne, Australia.
How they worked?
The researchers drew on traditions in psychological research that glean this information from the words people use when speaking or writing.
They wanted to see if they could show connections between emotional states and physical outcomes rooted in them. The researchers chose coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide.
They took the help of a set of public tweets made between 2009 and 2010 and established emotional dictionaries, as well as automatically generated clusters of words reflecting behaviours and attitudes, to analyse a random sample of tweets from individuals who had made their locations available.
There were enough tweets and health data from about 1,300 US counties, which contain 88% of the country’s population.
Researchers found that negative emotional language and topics, such as words like hate or expletives, remained strongly correlated with heart disease mortality, even after variables like income and education were taken into account.
Positive emotional language showed the opposite correlation, suggesting that optimism and positive experiences, words like wonderful or friends, may be protective against heart disease.
H Andrew Schwartz, a visiting assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Computer and Information Science said, the relationship between language and mortality is particularly surprising, since the people tweeting angry words and topics are in general not the ones dying of heart disease.