Illness analysis of social media flags up states with most sick and healthy residents in 2014

Big data analytics in healthcare was the leading investment segment of digital health this year. The Ebola virus outbreak, interest in tracking different flu strains and the terrible consequences of the anti-vaccine movement have underlined the value in using public health data for disease surveillance. Sickweather, a Baltimore-based digital health company, developed a way to […]

Big data analytics in healthcare was the leading investment segment of digital health this year. The Ebola virus outbreak, interest in tracking different flu strains and the terrible consequences of the anti-vaccine movement have underlined the value in using public health data for disease surveillance.

Sickweather, a Baltimore-based digital health company, developed a way to scan and analyze social media networks for illness surveillance, and map realtime data on symptoms and illnesses. It combined social media analytics with each state’s census data to compile top 1o lists of states with the most sick and healthy residents.

Its data scientists analyzed social media reports of allergies, flu, cough, colds and fever from January through October to determine the lists, according to a company statement. The results might surprise you. Kansas, for example, was the sickest state with nearly 4 in 1,000 who were sick this year, followed by Nevada with 3.26 and Kentucky with 3.25. Idaho and New York were the healthiest states, each with only 1.16 sick person per 1,000 followed by Mississippi with 1.22 in 1,000.

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Asked for a deeper analysis of particular illnesses that produced the sickest states, CEO and co-founder Graham Dodge said allergies would have dominated.

“The reason we included allergies in this study is because the inflammation caused by allergies can pave the way for other communicable illnesses to take hold.  In fact, we often see spikes in bronchitis and pneumonia following spikes in allergies.  In this regard, the environmental triggers that cause allergies symptoms in a population could ultimately be blamed for the severity of subsequent outbreaks.  Therefore, we believe that to understand the complete health picture of a population, one must take into account allergies, especially when dealing with self diagnosed reports, seeing as individuals may first think they have allergies, when in fact they have a cold, or vice versa.”

Maybe another possible reason for the outcome is that folks in the “healthiest states” are less inclined to tweet about sickness. It would be interesting to see which states’ residents tweet the most and the least.