What Your Twitter Feed Can Reveal About Your Mental Health

Photographed by Eylul Aslan.
Your tweets can say a lot about your personality, your sense of humor, and even your mental health, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, focused on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and compared more than a million tweets from 1,400 Twitter users who self-reported having ADHD with tweets from those who did not have the condition. They found that tweets can reveal a lot about the daily life experiences of someone with ADHD, which could help facilitate more effective treatment.
"On social media, where you can post your mental state freely, you get a lot of insight into what these people are going through, which might be rare in a clinical setting," study author Sharath Chandra Guntuku, a postdoctoral researcher at the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health, said in a press release. "In brief 30- or 60-minute sessions with patients, clinicians might not get all manifestations of the condition, but on social media you have the full spectrum."
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The researchers found that users with ADHD often tweeted out negative messages related to exhaustion, lack of focus, and failure. They also used words like "hate," "disappointment," "cry," and "sad," more often than the group without the condition and were more likely to tweet late at night, between 12 and 6 a.m.
With the study's findings, the researchers plan to build apps for different conditions such as ADHD, stress, anxiety, depression, and opioid addiction. The apps will offer insights into the conditions, along with "mini-interventions" that give suggestions to go to sleep or do some guided breathing, among others.
Twitter isn't the first social media site to give information about mental health. Scientists at Harvard and the University of Vermont conducted a similar study on Instagram for users with depression, where they also looked at how users with the condition post differently. While studies are currently limited to these two conditions, they may reveal more generally how social media can be used to both identify and treat mental illness.
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