265030 What Are People Tweeting About Pain: Implications of Using Social Media to Collect and Deliver Targeted Health Information

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kristina Ahlwardt , School of Dentistry, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Janice Tsoh, PhD , Department of Psychiatry, UCSF, San Francisco, CA
Barbara Gerbert, PhD , Center for Health Improvement and Prevention Studies, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Natalie Heaivilin , School of Dentistry, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Jennifer Gibbs, DDS , Department of Endodontics, New York University, New York, NY
Jens Page , Datajockey.org, New York, NY
INTRODUCTION: Twitter is a social networking site with the potential to provide user-generated data on a variety of health topics. Twitter users post updates, called tweets, of 140 characters or less. OBJECTIVE: We examined how Twitter users experiencing toothaches, backaches, earaches, and headaches communicate their symptoms and actions taken to relieve pain. METHODS: From 508,591 tweets collected in 7 non-consecutive days over a 4-week period, we randomly selected a total of 1204 tweets, 301 per pain type (toothache, backache, earache, and headache) and analyzed each tweet using a codebook of definitions for 9 primary categories and 69 non-mutually exclusive subcategories. Pearson chi-square tests were used to compare pain types by self-reported pain intensity and actions taken or anticipated to relieve the pain. RESULTS: Toothache (43.2%) and backache (47.2%) were described with higher pain intensities than tweets about earache (33.2%), and headache (32.2%), p<0.01. 13% (n = 155) mentioned taking actions for pain; toothache sufferers (62%) were more likely to seek health care (including seeing a health professional or using medications) than those suffering from backaches (29%), earaches (44%), and headaches (21%), p=0.001. However, few (0.03%) mentioned getting pain relief from the actions taken. CONCLUSION: Toothache and backache were experienced with higher pain intensities and toothache prompted health care-seeking more frequently than other pains. With these data we hope to foster a better understanding of individuals' comparative experiences with pain, leading to innovative ways of using social media to deliver evidence based and individually relevant information to patients.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Communication and informatics

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the use of mixed methods to analyze twitter data. 2. Describe twitter users' perception of backaches, earaches toothaches and backaches. 3. Identify innovative ways of using twitter or similar social media to assess public health needs and to reach relevant patient populations with health-related messages.

Keywords: Public Health Informatics, Surveillance

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked with the co-authors of this paper for over a year now helping to analyze the data and compose a manuscript.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.