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Posted on: 24-01-15
Tweets can signal communities heart disease risk: Study

Australian researchers have discovered how social media can serve as an indicator of a community's psychological wellbeing and can predict rates of heart disease.

Social media was "a new frontier for social science research", lead researcher Margaret Kern from the University of Melbourne said in a press statement released here Thursday, Xinhua reported.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Melbourne and University of Pennsylvania in the US, showed repeated instances of the negative emotive words such as "hate" and "bored" in local community tweets correlated with a higher heart disease rate in those communities, even after variables such as income and education were taken into account. The study, to be published in next month's edition of the leading journal Psychological Science, found positive terms like "wonderful" and "friends" were associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Hostility and chronic stress are known risk factors for heart disease and, researchers said, using Twitter to identify communities most at risk will significantly lower the current cost of large-scale assessments.

Researchers said their Twitter language prediction system worked significantly better than a model that combined 10 common factors such as smoking status and rates of obesity."Using Twitter as a window into a community's collective mental state may provide a useful tool in epidemiology and for measuring the effectiveness of public-health interventions," Kern said.

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