Social media has the power to connect people, spread news faster than anything else, raise awareness about various issues and… diagnose diseases. Scientists recently found that online social activity can give a surprisingly accurate insight into a person’s health.
This intriguing discovery was made by a group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. According to them, social media posts can show whether a user is likely to develop certain types of health conditions.
Scholars reached to that conclusion after analyzing different posts on social networks for a period of one full year. They found that users who tend to publish posts which contain more words, phrases or sentences with more negative connotation were more likely to develop health disease compared to others.
Moreover, scientist discovered that the risk level of developing such a condition depended less on variables like education or income than on the user’s social media activity. According to the study, this finding can even be used to predict the general wellbeing of an entire population for instance.
Influenza Social Media Monitoring
If you find this study surprising, then you will be even more surprised to learn that this is not the first research to find a relation between users’ health and their online activity. As matter of fact, a few months ago, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started an experimental initiative for influenza prediction, tracking and prevention that relied entirely on social media. The center analyzed public social media posts published on the territory of the U.S. to track seasonal flu tendencies. Their conclusion was that this practice gave reliable insights. In addition, they found it to be much cheaper compared to more traditional influenza tracking methods.
Mental Health Diagnostics Tool
Apart from tracking epidemics and predicting physical health conditions, social media is believed to be a reliable tool for diagnosing mental health risks. Back in 2013, a Microsoft Research’s study discovered that mental states like depression can be reflected in a person’s social media activity. The study found that individuals suffering from depression tended to have an increased self-attentional focus and lowered social activity. Also, then depressed people also used more negative words and expressions in their social network posts. According to the research, this mechanism for diagnosing and predicting depression was accurate in 70% of the cases.
It turns out that not only negative thoughts are bad for one’s health. Therefore, next time you update your social media status, show your positive side.