February 25, 2024

Social Media Reveals Inequalities and Mental Health Needs

Language patterns and usage on social media can serve as valuable tools for social scientists, offering insights into the living conditions and social inequalities within specific areas. This correlation between language and social inequalities was found by Associate Professor Lucas M. Bietti from NTNU’s Department of Psychology during a study that analyzed 30 million X/Twitter posts from the United States. By comparing the language used in the tweets to the living conditions in the counties from which they originated, Bietti and postdoctoral fellow Eric Mayor from the University of Basel discovered interesting trends.

According to Bietti, language patterns on social media can reveal signs of depression and lower adaptability, particularly among ethnic minorities. Lower adaptability refers to how individuals respond to significant changes, such as losing their jobs. The study also highlighted a connection between the socio-economic status of an area and the prevalence of signs of depression and poor adaptability among ethnic minorities. In areas with higher levels of poverty and a larger proportion of ethnic minorities, the language used on social media tends to show clearer signs of these mental health issues.

This correlation can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that many ethnic minorities in the United States experience lower levels of education and income compared to the majority population. The study conducted by Bietti and Mayor helps shed light on the language patterns found on X/Twitter, highlighting the differences in language usage based on the time of week the messages are sent. For example, the research showed that individuals tend to use more positive language in the afternoon, indicating that emotions tend to intensify outside of office hours, with people generally feeling more positive as the weekend approaches.

Overall, social media posts reflect the reality of individuals and communities. Analyzing language patterns in social media provides a useful method for understanding mental health trends. This approach allows researchers to compare the mood and mental health of people within a specific area at different times and over time. This method proves particularly valuable in areas where public health data is lacking or insufficient. By examining indicators derived from language patterns, researchers can identify where various health campaigns and social initiatives should be implemented, especially in areas with poorer living conditions compared to other regions.

In conclusion, the study conducted by Bietti and Mayor demonstrates the potential for social media to offer valuable insights into social inequalities and mental health needs. By analyzing language patterns on platforms such as X/Twitter, researchers can better understand trends in mental health and identify areas where targeted interventions are necessary. This method serves as a useful supplement to existing public health data, particularly in areas where such data is limited or inadequate. By leveraging the power of social media, researchers and policymakers can work towards addressing and reducing mental health disparities in communities.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it