Researchers at the University of Rochester revealed in 2012 how the use of Twitter can be utilized to predict the chances that a Twitter user will become sick. Now they have utilized Twitter to see how other factors – exposure to pollution, social status, and interpersonal interactions and others – influence one’s health.
According to Adam Sadilek, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Rochester, if you want to find out how many people are ill, a survey would have to be done, which can be expensive and take a lot of time. However, with the development of technology and Twitter, it can be done inexpensively, passively and quickly, by listening to what people tweet and use the data to make predictions.
He also explained that a large number of tweets are geo-tagged, meaning that they carry GPS information showing exactly where the Twitter user was when they sent out a tweet.
Collecting and sorting all this information not only lets researchers map out, in time and space what people said in tweets, but also where they were at the time and what time they were there. By following hundreds and thousands of Twitter users while they go on with their lives while tweeting, it is possible for researchers to also estimate interactions between two Twitter users and between the users and their environment.
Some of their research into the use of Twitter to predict how lifestyle affects health uncovered information that is probably not surprising. Such as, pollution seems to carry negative effects on health. Their research paper also revealed a broader pattern, where almost any activity involving human contact can lead to considerably increased health risks. For example, even some people who go to the gym regularly become sick marginally more often than individuals who are less active.