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Your social media posts may help in diagnosing diabetes, depression and more

Study shows that words used in social media like Facebook can predict a person's health condition. © Shutterstock

The words you use on your social media posts can reveal your health issues, according to researchers. They identified 21 conditions based on profile updates and posts.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Published : June 24, 2019 7:21 PM IST

sTurns out that what people post in social media can reveal their health condition. Researchers from Penn Medicine and Stony Brook University find that Facebook status updates and posts can identify as many as 21 health conditions based on their profiles and the words they use in their posts. They studied the posts of 999 Facebook account holders and looked into their demographic information as well.

According to researchers, all the 21 health conditions can be predicted by looking at only Facebook data. However, Facebook updates alone (not demographic information) predicted 10 of these conditions better.

The more predictive Facebook data was also more intuitive in the sense that it used words like 'drink' and 'bottle', which is indicative of alcohol abuse. But predicting all the 21 conditions was not easy. People who used religious language like 'God' or 'pray' in their posts were 15 times more likely to have diabetes. Also, words like 'dumb' and use of expletives indicated drug abuse and psychoses. However, researchers have shared the words associated with only a few of these health conditions. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences brought out the results.

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In fact, in 2018, scientists associated with this research had revealed that an analysis of social media posts, more specifically Facebook posts, can predict the onset of depression almost three months earlier than a diagnosis at a clinic. While we wait for social media to revolutionise the diagnosis sector of healthcare industry, here are the 21 health conditions that Facebook can reveal. However, the presence of particular words does not mean that the user has the disease. It can also indicate a person's risk factor.

Digestive Abdominal Symptoms

Disorders of the digestive tract are called digestive or abdominal disorders. People from the maedical fraternity refer to them as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract disease. The above mentioned study on Facebook users revealed that posts containing words 'sitting, chilling, here, waiting, come, ASAP, irked, confused and cannot' are indicative of this condition.

Symptoms to watch out for

Bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, incontinence, nausea and vomiting, unexplained weight loss or gain, difficulty swallowing, stomach pain and cramps.

Alcohol abuse

When a person starts drinking too much it can be called alcohol abuse. It is a chronic disease that affects the brain. Words from FB posts like 'bottle, weed, drunk, high, shirt, shoes and wear' are indicative of this condition.

Symptoms to watch out for

Depression, inability to stop drinking , poor performance at work, irritability, feeling of guilt, violent episodes, blackouts and shaky hands.


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the most common illness worldwide and the leading cause of disability. According to them, almost 350 million people are affected by depression globally. The words in social media posts associated with depression are 'pain, doctor, blood, hospital and feelings'.

Symptoms to watch out for

Unhappy mood, reduced interest in pleasurable, loss of sexual desire, weight loss and low appetite, difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping, slowed movement and speech, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, impaired ability to think and thoughts of death or suicide,

Drug abuse

When a person becomes addicted to any opiate, it is abuse of drugs. The words on social media that indicate this condition are 'dumb, nobody, everybody' and swear words.

Symptoms to watch out for

Bloodshot eyes, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, sudden weight loss or weight gain, deterioration in personal grooming, body odour, tremors, slurred speech or impaired coordination, drop in performance, unexplained change in personality, sudden mood swings, periods of hyperactivity, agitation or giddiness and lack of motivation.

Sexually transmitted disease

Diseases transmitted through sexual contact are called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). People who use swear words and words like 'wanna, walk, scream, away, move, rather and cry' are prone to STDs.

Symptoms to watch out for

Bladder infection, a change in vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain, pelvic pain, painful sexual intercourse, fever, cold sores around the mouth.


When your body loses its ability to process blood glucose or blood sugar, you get diabetes. Researchers have seen that words that have a religious bent indicate this disease. 'Family, God, father, please, lord and pray'' are some of the words that people prone to diabetes used.

Symptoms to watch out for

Excessive urination, itchy feet at night, unusual thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, irritability, slow healing wounds, fatigue and frequent urination.


Hypertension or high blood pressure can cause severe complications and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and even death. It is also called the 'silent killer' because the symptoms are difficult to identify. 'Pain, doctor, blood, hospital and surgery' are some of the words from social media posts that indicates this condition.

Symptoms to watch out for

Excessive sweating, anxiety, sleeping problems, flushing, headaches and nosebleeds.

Genitourinary disorders

The genitourinary system refers to the reproductive organs and the urinary system. Disorders of this system include congenital defects, infectious diseases, trauma or conditions that affect the urinary structure.

Symptoms to watch out for

Unexplained fever, sudden weight loss, pain in the lower part of the body, weakness in legs and body ache.

Injury and poisoning

Injury and poisoning are often the leading causes of death among children and teenagers. Poisoning happens for a person swallows, inhales or comes in contact any toxic substance. Injury can be caused by sharp objects are can also be self-inflicted.

Symptoms to watch out for

Burns or redness around the mouth and lips, breath that smells like chemicals, such as gasoline or paint thinner, vomiting, difficulty breathing, drowsiness, confusion or other altered mental status and bleeding.

Respiratory symptoms

Respiratory disorders are indicated by difficulty in breathing. If left untreated, it can lead to serious conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and asthma.

Symptoms to watch out for

A persistent cough, difficulty while breathing or shortness of breath, wheezing, a lingering chest pain, mucus discharge for more than a month, coughing up blood, runny nose, fatigue and body aches.


Pregnancy refers to the time when a child gestates or develops in a woman's womb. This can be a happy yet stressful time in most women's' lives.

Symptoms to watch out for

Missed period, headache, spotting, weight gain, pregnancy-induced hypertension, heartburn and vomiting, constipation and cramps, back pain, anemia, depression and insomnia, breast changes, acne, hip pain and diarrhea.

Skin disorders

Skin is our largest and most visible organ. Many factors contribute to its wellbeing. Allergens, pollution, infection as well as stress can be the culprits behind a skin disorder.

Symptoms to watch out for

Itchiness, swelling, redness, rash, flaky or scaly skin, blisters, oozing and bumps or growths.

Chronic pulmonary disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease characterised by increasing breathlessness.

Symptoms to watch out for

Shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, excess mucus in lungs, a chronic cough Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis), frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy, unexplained weight loss in later stages and swelling in ankles, feet or legs.

Blood loss anaemia

When your blood is deficient of iron, you get this type of anaemia. It is characterised by a decrease in the amount of haemoglobin in the blood. Severe blood loss or an improper diet can cause this anaemia.

Symptoms to watch out for

Extreme fatigue, weakness, breathlessness and chest pain, inflammation of the tongue, increased thirst, confusion, dizziness and headaches, pale complexion, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, unusual cravings for ice, dirt or starch and poor appetite.

Fluid and electrolyte disorders

Electrolytes are naturally occurring compounds like calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium and sodium, in the body that control important physiologic functions. These substances are present in the blood, body fluids and urine.

Symptoms to watch out for

A fast heart rate or irregular heartbeats, fatigue and lethargy, convulsions or seizures, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, cramps and weakness, headaches and confusion, numbness and tingling of limbs.


Obesity is a serious disorder where a person has an excessive amount of body fat. It increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Your obesity quotient is measured by body mass index (BMI). You can calculate BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared.

Symptoms to watch out for

Excessive body weight, lethargy and a body mass index of 30 or higher.


It is normal to be anxious once in a while. But if a person worries incessantly about everyday situations it is a disorder.

Symptoms to watch out for

Nervousness or restlessness, a sense of impending danger, panic or doom, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, weakness, trouble concentrating and insomnia.


This is a mental condition where a person loses tough with reality. It can also bring on episodes of hallucinations and delusions.

Symptoms to watch out for

Hearing, seeing or feeling things that do not exist, coordination problem in thought, speech or behaviour, unresponsiveness and difficulty concentrating.

Blood loss anaemia

This kind of anaemia is induced by loss of blood due to reasons like excessive bleeding or injury.

Symptoms to watch out for

Pale or yellowish skin, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, chest pain, cold hands and feet and headache.


This is a bleeding disorder where the blood is unable to clot. It causes uncontrolled internal or external bleeding. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

Symptoms to watch out for

Blood in urine, blood in stools, double vision and headaches, seizures, chest pain, shortness of breath and organ failure.

Collagen Vascular Disease

This is actually a group of diseases that affects the connective tissue. It is a condition where the immune system causes inflammation in collagen and nearby joints.

Symptoms to watch out for

Fatigue muscle weakness, fever body aches, joint pain and skin rash.

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