Twitter users share migraine pain in real time

Apr 05 2014, 14:05 IST
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"We sought to evaluate the instant expression of actual self-reported migraine attacks in social media," DaSilva said. (Reuters)
SummaryMany people are taking to social media sites such as Twitter to share the agony of their migraine pain, a new study has found.

Many people are taking to social media sites such as Twitter to share the agony of their migraine pain, a new study has found.

Deciphering 21,741 tweets, researchers found that 74 per cent women shared a real-time migraine attack on twitter, followed by 17 per cent men.

Sharing the agony with other sufferers on social media indicates a trend towards the cathartic sharing of physical pain, as well as emotional pain on social media, researchers said.

"As technology and language evolve, so does the way we share our suffering," said principal investigator Alexandre DaSilva, from University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

"It's the first known study to show the instant and broad impact of migraine attacks on modern patients' lives by decoding manually each one of their individual attack-related tweets," said DaSilva.

DaSilva's team, including research fellows Thiago Nascimento and Marcos DosSantos, worked with 50 students and residents to categorise 21,741 tweets.

They eliminated advertising, metaphor and non-related migraine tweets, which has not been done in previous studies. Further, they analysed the meaning of each individual migraine tweet.

"We sought to evaluate the instant expression of actual self-reported migraine attacks in social media," DaSilva said.

Results generated unique information about who suffers from migraines and what, how, where and when they use social media to describe their pain.

Among other things, they examined the most common descriptors for migraines, including profanities, tweet times and locations, and impact on productivity and mood.

Only 65 per cent of the migraine tweets were from actual sufferers of migraines posting in real-time, researchers said.

Other tweets were advertising, general discussion, retweets, etc, indicating that not everything in social media is meaningful to the patient, DaSilva said.

Migraines pose a huge public health problem, harming mood, productivity and overall quality of life.

An estimated 12 per cent of the Western world population suffer migraine attacks, and of those, 75 per cent see reduced functionality and 30 per cent require bed rest, researchers said.

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