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.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Melbourne and University of Pennsylvania in the U.S., showed that Twitter not only predicts heart disease risk as well as many other traditional methods, but it also acts as a psychological barometer.

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.

Researchers said their Twitter language prediction system worked
significantly better than did a model that combined 10 common factors such as smoking status and rates of obesity.

Lead author Dr. Margaret Kern from the University of Melbourne said social media was "a new frontier for social science research".

"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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