July 10, 2015

Penn researchers to use Twitter to study heart health

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania will study the correlation between Twitter behavior and heart health with the help of a federal grant from the National Institutes of Health, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.

The $668,000 grant will fund the new study, which will build upon research released by Penn in February. 

The first study found that users who posted tweets exhibiting hostility, fatigue or tension were more likely to die from atherosclerotic heart disease (AHD), while those who tweeted messages about positive experiences were less likely.

"A lot of people think things like Twitter are frivolous, that it's superficial, that people are tweeting about what they had for breakfast," researcher Dr. David Asch told the Philadelphia Business Journal. "Partly because people tweet from the heart – no pun intended – it may tell us a lot about people’s health in important ways."

Asch explained the study will analyze social media vernacular with an emphasis on phrases' meanings, instead of a literal take on the tweet's content. For instance, a tweet that says someone is about to have a heart attack is often an exaggeration, and would be evaluated differently than other tweets displaying a generally negative outlook.

Asch said a better understanding of the relationship could help doctors and patients use Twitter as a tool to monitor heart disease.

Read more from the Philadelphia Business Journal.