Scientists Are Using Twitter Data To Track Depression
Computer scientists at Johns Hopkins have built an algorithm that uses Twitter to gather information about mental illness trends.
Researchers combed 8 billion public tweets for users who shared their diagnoses of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder. They further looked for commonly used words among these populations in an effort to identify language cues that might be related to the illnesses.
The data analysis revealed two key findings: Signs of depression were more common in U.S. regions with higher unemployment rates and PTSD was more common at military bases that frequently deployed soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan.
While neither of these discoveries are particularly surprising, they do suggest that Twitter could be an effect platform for collecting location-based mental health data. This type of data collection could also help psychologists investigate the language that tends to accompany various mental health problems.
“One of the most exciting possibilities that this enables is to examine the language of many mental health conditions simultaneously,” Glen Coppersmith, a senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins, said in an email to The Huffington Post. “And perhaps find as-of-yet undiscovered connections across disorders.”