What Your Facebook Timeline Can Reveal About Your Health

At a time when you thought posting on social media could pose security and privacy issues, here is a breather. A recent study published at PLOS ONE has shown that the language you use in your Facebook posts can help determine your overall health and well being. According to research from Penn Medicine and Stony Brook University, your Facebook posts may be a powerful indicator of identifying conditions such as diabetes, anxiety, depression and psychosis in patients.

Here’s what the study from a sample case of 1000 people revealed:

  • Using the words ‘drink’ or ‘bottle’ revealed a likelihood of alcohol abuse.
  • People who often mentioned ‘God’ or ‘pray’ were 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than those who didn’t.
  • People who are often found using expletives were indicators of drug abuses and psychoses.

In a time when Artificial Intelligence is making inroads into our daily lifestyle and choices, these studies help understand the role that social media plays in helping diagnose our behavioural pattern. Andrew Schwartz, an assistant professor of Computer Science at Stony Brook University and one of the authors of this study says, “Many studies have now shown a link between language patterns and a specific disease, such as language predictive of depression or language that gives insights into whether someone is living with cancer. However, by looking across many medical conditions, we get a view of how conditions relate to each other, which can enable new applications of AI for medicine.”

The language people use, the posts they often comment on, and the frequency of posts easily help reveal a person’s likes, dislikes, passion and what they are going through, according to this study. Though only in its infancy stage, it would be interesting to see how studies like these help put social media to better use in analysing people’s physical and mental health than just a hobby or a past time.