How Facebook Posts Can Predict Mental And Physical Health


Facebook, mental health and you

While you may think that Facebook is nothing more than a social media network that you connect with the world through, it is much more seemingly. Have you ever checked out Facebook and noticed something weird with posts or comments? It turns out, Facebook posts can actually predict a person's mental and even physical health, according to a new study.

It is quite common to see articles about how Facebook or even the internet at large is ruining lives. However, if the study published by PLOS One turns out to be true, it could actually save them.

The study found that Facebook posts can help people identify specific ordeals a person is going through based on certain words they might use in the posts. The researchers at Penn Medicine and Stony Brook University, the team behind the study, found a specific correlation between Facebook posts that mentioned “drink” and “bottle” and alcohol abuse.

If that wasn't weird enough for you, they also found that those who post words like “God” and “pray” were 15 times more likely to be diabetic. The study even found people using the word “dumb” and a few certain curse words indicated drug abuse or some form of psychosis.

Facebook Posts And Major Connections

The way researchers were able to determine all of their findings was by following 1,000 Facebook users. All of which agreed to link their electronic medical record data to their profiles. They went on to examine 21 different conditions. All were predictable based on the users' Facebook posts.

The team also found that 10 of those conditions were predicted better with Facebook data than with normal demographic data. Of course, the latter data helps determine several conditions due to obvious reasons. Therefore, being able to predict medical issues through mere Facebook posts is incredible.

It's even more amazing to see the posts predicted things better than other, long-standing formats.

Last October, a study regarding Facebook came out as well. This study suggested people could tell if someone was depressed just off of their Facebook posts. In fact, this system worked least three months before people were diagnosed in a clinic. That said, researchers feel that this extra study only goes to serve as an added asset to help in health.

It is also clear that if the data can hold up in more testing, doctors can begin to use Facebook posts to help with determining mental health issues at the very least. Having two studies show similar results does clearly point to a connection we cannot overlook.

It Still May Be Too Early To Tell

When Science Daily reached out to the lead author of the study, Raina Merchant, MD, MS told them:

“This work is early, but our hope is that the insights gleaned from these posts could be used to better inform patients and providers about their health, As social media posts are often about someone's lifestyle choices and experiences or how they're feeling, this information could provide additional information about disease management and exacerbation.”

Obviously, while the study can point to specific words at times, this is not going to 100% prove a person has a drug or drinking problem, for instance. However,  it might do some good. Especially when followed and studied, use of specific words over a long period of time could very well point to issues.

The hope is that following Facebook posts can help doctors form programs or healthcare around a person's specific needs. While mental health might be the biggest thing this concept will help, there's more.

Dr. Merchant explained, saying:

“For instance, if someone is trying to lose weight and needs help understanding their food choices and exercise regimens, having a healthcare provider review their social media record might give them more insight into their usual patterns in order to help improve them.”

Exactly. The program is formed around the person and there isn't a blanket concept given to everyone.

Of course, it's still far too early in the process to believe Facebook posts will help doctors a ton. More study needs to be put in before your doctor asks to see your social media. However, this could give Facebook users a license to follow what their friends might be saying.

Who knows, you may save a life by just asking about how they are after a certain thing is posted.

About Andrew Fortman 4 Articles
Andrew lives in Chicago, IL and is a lifelong lover of the theatre and movies. His writing focuses mainly on pop culture entertainment and LGBTQ life experiences and identities. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University and the University of Virginia where he studied acting and the theatre arts.