Angry Tweets May Predict Atherosclerotic Heart Disease


Is it possible for Twitter to predict a community's level of heart disease?

Regardless of whether you are a passive Twitter browser or a social marketer running an in-depth tweet campaign for a multinational company, you have surely been exposed to a negative tweeter. As it turns out, these negative tweeters are helping medical science identify geographical locations where individuals may be more likely to suffer from heart disease.

Hostility and chronic stress have been associated with increased levels of cortisol, catecholamines, and inflammation. It is understood that chronic exposure to these physiologic stressors can lead to an increased risk for heart disease. The issue is these risk factors are much more difficult to monitor, compared with measureable risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, smoking, and obesity.

Interestingly, many tweets can be easily traced to their geographical point of origin. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, and a few other institutions recently studied tweets stemming from more than 1300 counties in the United States between 2009 and 2010. They discovered that, on a community level, language patterns that consistently showed negative emotions such as anger were predictors for atherosclerotic heart disease (AHD) in those specific communities.

Surprisingly, the results suggested that measuring the psychological language of a community through local tweeting behavior offered a more predictive indicator for AHD than a common model that measured health risk factors such as hypertension, smoking, diabetes, and obesity.

An individual may not stand out as a predictor of his or her community's overall health. When taken as a whole, however, living in a community of angry tweeters may increase an individual's likelihood of having AHD.

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