What we post on Facebook may be an "exaggerated" look at our social lives, but according to a new study, the social media website could actually provide a pretty accurate reflection of obesity rates around the country.
A new study from Boston Children's Hospital researchers shows that the more people in a certain area or region who "like" or share information on healthy activities on Facebook, the lower the likelihood of that area having a high obesity rate. Similarly, the more people in a certain area or region who "like" or share information about TV on Facebook, the higher the likelihood of that area having a higher obesity rate.
"The tight correlation between Facebook users' interests and obesity data suggest that this kind of social network analysis could help generate real-time estimates of obesity levels in an area, help target public health campaigns that would promote healthy behavior change, and assess the success of those campaigns," study researcher John Brownstein, Ph.D., of the Boston Children's Hospital Informatics Program, said in a statement.
The new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, involved comparing obesity rates around the U.S. with TV- or activity-related interests on Facebook. Researchers found strong correlations between obesity and activity-related or TV-related Facebook "likes."
For example, researchers found that the highest number of activity-related "likes" were in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and that the obesity rate is 12 percent lower in this area than in Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas, where there was the lowest number of activity-related Facebook "likes."
Similarly, the highest number of TV-related Facebook "likes" was in Myrtle Beach-Conway-north Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, and that the obesity rate is 3.9 percent higher here than in Eugene-Springfield, Ore., which had the lowest number of TV-related Facebook "likes."
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How Much We Know And Care About CPR, AEDs And Cardiac Arrest
In two new studies, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have found that people are tweeting about cardiac arrest, CPR and AEDS (automated external defibrillators), and that the microblogging platform has the potential to spread more awareness and spur more discussion on the topics. The research was presented this month at the annual <a href="http://scientificsessions.org/" target="_hplink">Scientific Sessions</a> meeting of the American Heart Association. In one of the studies, researchers sought to find out what exactly <a href="http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/124/21_MeetingAbstracts/A53?sid=6e736fad-18a8-4580-8b6d-225308e637e6" target="_hplink">people were asking about cardiac arrest and CPR </a>on Twitter. They analyzed 13,981 tweets and found that 21 percent of cardiac arrest-related questions had to do with symptoms, prognosis or risk factors of the condition, and 39 percent of the questions had to do with guidelines, certification and proper technique of CPR. Forty percent of the questions had to do with costs, safety and use of AEDs. In the other study, researchers looked at 15,324 tweets that contained some sort of <a href="http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/124/21_MeetingAbstracts/A52?sid=6e736fad-18a8-4580-8b6d-225308e637e6" target="_hplink">information about cardiac arrest</a>. Among their findings: 14 percent of those tweets were a direct reference to a cardiac arrest, while 5 percent were personal stories of cardiac arrest. Twenty-nine percent of the tweets had to do with using CPR or an AED and almost 60 percent of the tweets had to do with training or advocacy events for cardiac arrest, or news about a celebrity, athlete or young adult who had undergone cardiac arrest.
What We Think About The Flu
A study published earlier this year in the journal <em>PLoS Computational Biology</em> shows that Twitter could be used to track <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/15/twitter-flu-shot-vaccinations_n_1010899.html" target="_hplink">flu shot vaccination rates</a> and attitudes. That research, conducted by Pennsylvania State researchers, involved analysis of 477,768 tweets between August 2009 and January 2010 that contained some sort of wordage about the H1N1 vaccine. The researcher was able to see what parts of the U.S. had the highest flu vaccination rates (based on the Twitter information), as well as what the general sentiments were toward the vaccine (New Englanders are most positive toward the vaccine, and are also the most likely to get vaccinated). Researchers also found that people were most negative toward the flu vaccine when it was first introduced, but then the reaction grew increasingly positive the more time passed.
What's Ailing Us -- And What We've Got Wrong About Our Health
Recent research from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore shows that you can look on Twitter to get a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/08/twitter-health_n_893466.html#s305983&title=Chris_Tung" target="_hplink">general feel for what ills people are experiencing</a>. They found in their study of 1.5 million health-related tweets that people are tweeting most about depression, cancer, obesity, allergies, insomnia and pain. Researchers also found that Twitter could be used to unearth some common health misconceptions we have. For example, "we found that some people tweeted that they were <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14059745" target="_hplink">taking antibiotics for the flu</a>," Ph.D. student Michael J. Paul, one of the researchers for the project, told BBC News. "But antibiotics don't work on the flu, which is a virus, and this practice could contribute to the growing antibiotic resistance problems."
How We're Feeling
Turns out, we're <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/twitter-mood-study_n_987569.html" target="_hplink">happiest early in the morning</a> and around midnight, according to a Twitter study conducted by Cornell University researchers. Researchers looked at half a billion tweets from more than 2 million Twitter users over a two-year period, and found that Twitter users' <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/twitter-mood-study_n_987569.html" target="_hplink">moods tend to start happy</a> early in the day and then get more negative as the day wears on, but then peak again in happiness at midnight. "Everybody we told about this has had the same reaction: 'That's obvious. People go to work, they get stressed -- of course their mood deteriorates,'" study researcher Michael Macy, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at Cornell, told HuffPost. "It turns out, that's not true." Because researchers found that the "daily mood swing" unearthed by Twitter was also the case during the weekends, they suggest that the changes in emotions might be affected by our sleep and circadian rhythms, and not just a bad mood brought on by the workday.
What We Understand (And Misunderstand) About Antibiotics
What we <a href="http://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(10)00034-9/abstract" target="_hplink">think we know about antibiotics</a> is very easily spread through Twitter, according to a study published last year in <em>AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control</em>. However, the viral nature of Twitter has the ability to backfire if the antibiotic information isn't correct, researchers said. The study, conducted by Columbia University and MixedInk researchers, looked at 52,153 <a href="http://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(10)00034-9/abstract" target="_hplink">tweets that mentioned antibiotics</a> that were posted between March 13, 2009 and July 31, 2009. Researchers used word combinations like "extra + antibiotic(s)" and "leftover + antibiotic(s)" to narrow down the tweets further. They found that when it came to tweeting about antibiotics, people were most commonly talking about how many days they had left on an antibiotic regimen, or a desire that antibiotics help to kick an illness soon. The second most common topic was advice on antibiotics, and the third most common topic was side effects that come from taking antibiotics. Out of all the tweets, 700 were spreading some sort of misunderstanding about antibiotics, researchers found. For example: the word combination of "flu + antibiotic(s)" yielded 345 tweets, which in turn reached a total of 172,571 Twitter followers.
New Study Reveals Twitter Knows Your Mood