1065 What Do People Tweet About: Odontalgia, Backaches, Earaches, and Headaches

Friday, March 23, 2012: 3:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Presentation Type: Poster Session
K. AHLWARDT1, J. GIBBS2, J. PAGE3, N. HEAVILIN1, J. TSOH4, and B. GERBERT1, 1Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, University of California - San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, 2Department of Endodontics, New York University, New York, NY, 3Datajockey.org, New York, NY, 4Department of Psychiatry, University of California - San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Twitter is a social networking site with the potential to provide user-generated data on a variety of health topics. Twitter users post updates, called tweets, of 140 characters or less. 18-44 year olds and minorities use twitter heavily, with continuing growth in all populations. 

Objective: To examine how Twitter users experiencing toothaches, backaches, earaches, and headaches communicate their symptoms, suffering and actions taken to relieve pain. 

Method: Tweets were collected from 7 non-consecutive days over a 4-week period and analyzed using a codebook of definitions for 9 primary categories and 63 non-mutually exclusive subcategories. 43 relevant tweets per pain type (toothache, backache, earache, and headache) were randomly selected from each day. Coded data from 688 tweets (172 per pain type) were analyzed in this study.  Descriptive statistics, ANOVA and Pearson chi-square tests were used to compare differences among pain type on selected primary and subcategories.

Result: One day of data collection yielded 47,522 headache, 13,918 backache, 3,241 toothache, and 2,251 earache tweets. Tweets about toothache (45.3%) and earache (41.7%) were described with higher pain intensities than tweets about backache (38%), and headache (30%) p=0.03. Among those indicating taking actions for pain (13%, n=89) , toothache sufferers (58%) were more likely to seek health care than those suffering from backaches (8%), earaches (19%), and headaches (6%), p<0.001. 5% (n=37) of tweets indicated impacts due to pain; the primary impact of a toothache was food or drink restriction (83%), while earaches impacted sleep (58%), backaches (83%), and headaches (63%) impacted other daily activities (p=0.04).

Conclusion: With these data we hope to foster a better understanding of patients’ experiences with pain. We also hope this knowledge will lead to innovative ways of using social media to deliver evidence based information to patients.

Keywords: Pain and Social Media