*Heather Logghe
University of California, San Francisco
Poster Presentation – Research Track
Saturday, Sept 29, 2012: 1:20 PM – 2:20 PM – LK Lower Lobby

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*Presenting Speaker

Every year, there is extensive media attention on how to “avoid weight gain” over the holidays. This media coverage typically focuses on strategies to avoid overeating. Infodemiology has been defined as the science of analyzing information from an electronic medium, specifically, the Internet, with the goal of informing public health and public policy. The goal of this study to use Twitter tweets to analyze the phenomenon of overindulgence to the point of pain during the holidays. Specifically we have aimed to: 1) analyze whether there is increased postprandial abdominal pain during the holidays as opposed non-holidays: 2) determine whether abdominal pain secondary to overeating occurs more frequently on the actual holiday or the day after.

Using the search function on Twitter.com, all tweets referencing abdomen (“tummy”, “belly”, “stomach” etc.) and pain (“hurt”, “ache”, “burn” etc.) were recorded and stored in a database. Tweets were collected from three randomly chosen days in October 2011 as well as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day and the 24-hour period following the holidays. Stata statistical software was then used to analyze the tweets for the frequency of words related to overeating. Frequencies for “too much,” “full,” and “stuffed” were calculated for each 24-hour period that the data was collected.

On a typical day in October there were 400-500 tweets regarding abdominal pain and overeating. On October 31st, the number increased slightly to 560 and on November 1st, it jumped to 956. On Thanksgiving Day, there were 1,497 tweets regarding abdominal pain and overeating and the day after there were 1,885. On Christmas Day, there were 1,201 tweets regarding abdominal pain and overeating and 1,154 the day after.

Twitter is a useful tool for analyzing the prevalence of overindulgence to the point of abdominal pain. Tweets related to overeating and abdominal pain nearly doubled during Halloween showed nearly a three-fold increase on Thanksgiving and the day after. Interestingly, tweets referencing abdominal pain and overeating were more frequent on the day following each holiday than the actual holiday itself during Halloween and Thanksgiving, but not after the Christmas holiday. It is unclear if this is due to increased overeating on the day after, or if there is a lag time for the abdominal pain to set in after the overindulgence.