Researchers show how Twitter can predict influence of lifestyle on health
Washington, Feb 9 : Researchers have revealed how Twitter can be used to show that factors like social status, exposure to pollution, interpersonal interaction and others can influence health, a report has said.
Adam Sadilek, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Rochester, said that Twitter and the technology 'we have developed allow us to do this passively, quickly and inexpensively; we can listen in to what people are saying and mine this data to make predictions.'
Sadilek also explained that many tweets are geo-tagged, which means they carry GPS information that shows exactly where the user was when he or she tweeted.
Collating all this information allows the researchers to map out, in space and in time, what people said in their tweets, but also where they were and when they were there.
By following thousands of users as they tweet and go about their lives, researchers also could estimate interactions between two users and between users and their environment.
Using tweets collected in New York City over a period of a month, they looked at factors like how often a person takes the subway, goes to the gym or a particular restaurant, proximity to a pollution source and their online social status.
Some of their results are perhaps not surprising; for example, pollution sources seem to have a negative effect on health.
However, this is the first time this impact has been extracted from the online behavior of a large online population.
The paper also reveals a broader pattern, where virtually any activity that involves human contact leads to significantly increased health risks.
For example, even people who regularly go to the gym get sick marginally more often than less active individuals.
However, people who merely talk about going to the gym, but actually never go (verified based on their GPS), get sick significantly more often.