A perfect tweetstorm: Scientists say the language people use in their Twitter posts can reveal the state of their mental health and be used to predict loneliness.
- Researchers analyzed user posts that tweeted the words & # 39; lonely & # 39; or & # 39; alone & # 39;
- They found that these users also used to tweet about anger, depression and anxiety.
- Loneliness affects one in five adults and is linked to cardiovascular disease.
- Experts are working on an intervention scheme for hospital patient loneliness
The language you use in your tweets can be used to reveal the state of your mental health and find out how lonely you are, a study said.
Considered a public health crisis, loneliness affects about one in five adults and has been linked to cardiovascular disease and depression.
US researchers have created a system that can predict loneliness based on hospital patient tweets and are working to integrate it into an intervention program.
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The language you use in your tweets can be used to find out how lonely you are and reveal the state of your mental health, a study reported.
Digital expert Sharath Chandra Guntuku of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and her colleagues decided to resolve the crisis by determining which topics and themes in people's tweets could be associated with loneliness.
By applying the language analytic model to tweets, they found that users who tweeted about loneliness post significantly more often mental health issues and things like relationship issues, substance abuse and insomnia.
Findings can make it easier to identify Twitter users who are alone – and provide support for them – even if they don't explicitly tweet about feeling alone.
"Loneliness can be a slow killer because some of the medical problems associated with it can take decades to manifest," said Dr. Guntuku.
"If we can identify lonely individuals and intervene before the health conditions associated with the issues we discover begin to unfold, we will have a chance to help much earlier in their lives."
"This can be very powerful and have lasting effects on public health."
By identifying typical topics published online by lonely people, researchers say they have discovered some of the ingredients needed to build a "loneliness prediction system".
Considered a public health crisis, loneliness affects about one in five adults and has been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease and depression (image).
"Social media has the potential to allow researchers and doctors to passively measure loneliness over time," said article author Rachelle Schneider.
& # 39; By validating our data, we can develop a reliable and accurate tool to do this monitoring.
Focused on Pennsylvania Twitter users with publicly accessible accounts, the team found over 2,000 people who tweeted the words "lonely" or & # 39; alone & # 39; more than five times between 2012 and 2016.
Comparing these users' tweets with those on Twitter's broader timeline revealed that "lonely" users they tweeted almost twice as much as the others, and were much more likely to do so at night.
Tweeters who posted about loneliness were also much more likely to post content associated with anger, depression and anxiety, the team said.
They were also often tweeted about their relationship struggles – using phrases like "I want someone" or & # 39; no one to whom & # 39; – and substance use, using words like & # 39; smoke & # 39 ;, & # 39; weed & # 39; or & # 39; drunk & # 39 ;.
"On Twitter, we find lone users expressing the need for social support and it seems that the use of profanity and the expression of anger are a sign of that unfulfilled," added Dr. Guntuku.
& # 39; Moving forward, we will need to test this to determine if one can cause the other. Does loneliness cause anger or vice versa?
Once loneliness is identified, it can be dealt with in a number of ways, explained the author of the article and digital health expert Raina Merchant.
It's clear that there is no single model for everyone. Some interventions include peer systems, peer-to-peer networking, therapy, and skills development to navigate daily interactions with other people, she said.
HOW CAN SOCIAL MEDIA HARM USER HEALTH?
Twitter is not the first social media giant to analyze how its platform affects users' health.
Facebook admitted in December that the site could be harmful to people's health if used in the wrong way.
The company recommended that people use Facebook actively, rather than passively, communicating with friends, rather than just rolling the feed.
Facebook said it consulted with social psychologists, social scientists and sociologists to determine that the site could be good for users' welfare, if used in the right way.
By interacting with people when you use Facebook, you can improve their well-being, according to the company.
The report came after a former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya, said Facebook "destroyed the functioning of society."
Facebook went on to say that while there were some disadvantages to social media, it usually has potential benefits if used correctly.
In January, Facebook also recognized that social media can undermine democracy.
With this initial study completed, researchers now seek to develop a better measure of the different dimensions of loneliness felt by online users.
The team's predictive model is already accurately predicting loneliness in a patient population who chose to share their Twitter data and conduct a validated loneliness survey.
Researchers hope to launch soon an initiative that identifies lonely patients receiving care at the hospital and develop interventions to support them and their families.
The complete findings of the study were published in the journal BMJ Open.
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