This unexpected link between your tweets and your health makes total sense. (Image: Laura Kenney)
If you’ve ever expressed rage via your Twitter account — we’re talking to you, Kanye, Donald, and, if we can extrapolate to other social media mediums, the manic Dance Mom fans of Instagram — you might want to make an appointment with a cardiologist, stat.
According to a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania published in the journal of Psychological Science this week, an individual’s Twitter behavior is a better predictor of coronary heart-disease than “smoking, diabetes, income and education — combined.”
More angry and anxiety-laden tweets, the study found, ended up corresponding with more cases of heart disease; happy, laid-back tweets were composed by those with less instances of heart disease. “It’s a pretty aggressive action to be cursing, to dropping the f-bomb on Twitter,” lead researcher Johannes Eichstaedt tells the Washington Post, echoing the sentiments of people everywhere who are subjected to their feed being overcome by those live-tweeting The Bachelor on Monday nights.
Eichstaedt clarifies, however, that it isn’t the tweeters themselves who are most likely at the greatest risk for a coronary event, as the age of the average Twitter user skews much younger than those most likely to suffer from heart disease. The tweets instead represent, essentially, the epidemiology of a feeling — such as anger — impacting a given geographic community.
Just like how Twitter has previously been used to track the spread of the flu by identifying where conversations are happening about flu-like symptoms, the social media medium can also be used to identify hostile communities whose emotions put them at greater risk for a heart attack.
Eichstaedt refers to the Twitter users who help predict such behaviors as “the canaries of the psychological profile of their communities,” adding that “hostility and anger is very likely to spread person to person, so even if we both live in the most beautiful neighborhood in New York City, and I’m really, really angry and I’m on the road with you, you will get some of that anger.”
So reader be warned: Walk away from the angry guy in front of you in line at Starbucks — his bitterness is contagious. And to be on the safe side, just avoid the Internet altogether during marathon programming blocks of any reality program.