#hayfever; A longitudinal study into hay fever related tweets in the UK

#hayfever; A longitudinal study into hay fever related tweets in the UK

This paper describes a longitudinal study that has collected and analysed over 512,000 UK geolocated tweets over 2 years from June 2012 that contained instances of the words “hayfever” and “hay fever”. The results indicate that the temporal distribution of the tweets collected in 2014 correlates strongly (r=0.97, p

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Ed de Quincey

April 13, 2016
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  1. 1.

    #hayfever; A longitudinal study into hay fever related tweets in

    the UK Dr Ed de Quincey, Keele University Dr Theo Kyriacou, Keele University Dr Thomas Pantin, Macclesfield Hospital Photo by Maja Dumat
  2. 2.

    Dr Ed de Quincey @eddequincey Postgraduate Course Director, Lecturer in

    Computer Science School of Computing and Mathematics, KeeleUniversity Lead of the Software Engineering Research Cluster instagram.com/eddequincey
  3. 3.

    The current UK hay fever prevalence is between 20-25% of

    the population, projected to rise to 39% by 2030 (Emberlin, 2010). Photo from “Hayfever hotspots: As pollen counts rise, our unique British map tells you where to avoid” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1015294/Hayfever-hotspots-As- pollen-counts-rise-unique-British-map-reveals-avoid.html
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    Surges in incidence of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) in spring

    and summer are commonly known as the hay fever season, with the main pollens in the UK being birch pollen, March to mid May, and grass pollen, late May to August (Emberlin, 2010).
  5. 5.

    The Meteorological Office (Met Office) provide weekly pollen forecasts and

    the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) produce weekly service reports. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/forecast/
  6. 6.

    Photo by “A Guy Taking Pictures” For researchers and sufferers

    of hay fever, there is currently no method for identifying real-time, geolocated hay fever incidence.
  7. 7.

    A promising approach in the related field of Epidemiological Intelligence

    to detect seasonal illnesses is the use of Social Media (de Quincey & Kostkova, 2010). By collecting incidences of users self reporting illnesses on twitter, it has been shown that outbreaks can be predicted 1-2 weeks before RCGP data indicates (Szomszor et al, 2012).
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    “1486 following, 283 followers and 134 updates and 36 direct

    messages to hayfever sufferers on Twitter” http://www.figarodigital.co.uk/case-study/Kleenex.aspx
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    512,198 tweets 294,010 people Since 20th June 2012 and 31st

    July 2014 69.4% “Hayfever” 30.6% “Hay fever”
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    Distribution similar to Pollen Calendars produced by the National Pollen

    and Aerobiology Research Unit, with peaks in June/July, reductions through August/September, no pollen from October to January and then a rise in March
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    The highest number of tweets posted was 5,826 on the

    26th of June 2012. 52% (3,002) of these were retweets of a tweet from a user, @carolineflack1, who currently has 1.7 million followers. A related phenomenon was seen when a tweet by @GemmaAnneStyles, who currently has 3.16 million followers, was retweeted 1,353 times. Photo by “Pop Sugar” “The Harry Styles Effect”
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    Frequent words included “my” (120,119); “like” (34,017); “today” (33,826); “eyes”

    (32,494); “hate” (30,964); “I’m” (28,436); “bad” (25,770); “tablets” (24,502); “f@ck” (22,052); “nose” (19,859); “cold” (15,381); “summer” (15,248) and “sneezing” (14,429). Content of tweets
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    “I have hayfever” (4,804) “I have hay fever” (2,672) “my

    hayfever” (32,304) “my hay fever” (11,386) Self-reporting phrases
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    Symptom Word Number of tweets Eyes (itchy, red, watery etc.)

    32,494 (6.3%) Sneezing 26,391 (5.1%) Nose (runny, blocked etc.) 19,859 (3.8%) Itch (y,ing) 9,033 (1.7%) Red 5,844 (1.1%) Block (ed) 5,655 (1.1%) Throat 5,025 (0.9%) Water (y,ing,ed) 3,822 (0.7%) Runn (y,ing) 3,449 (0.7%) Cough 1,421 (0.3%) Mouth 800 (0.2%) Ears 574 (0.1%) Number of tweets containing symptom related terms
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    Photo by e-Magine Art 27,553 tweets related to medication were

    found (containing terms such as “medicine”; “tablets”; “meds”; “medication”; “pill’; “spray” and “drugs”). 670 tweets related to drug efficacy (“tablets don’t work” and “the pills don’t work”)
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    Utilising a profanity dictionary, the number of tweets containing expletives

    was found to be around 11% (55,515). “Hayfever is totally kicking my **** today. The *******.”
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    Top 5 locations for number of tweets Location No of

    tweets No of tweets/Population London 86,460 1.03% Manchester 21,489 4.18% Birmingham 10,458 0.96% Liverpool 10,206 2.17% Bristol 8,244 1.88%
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    “Thank you for sight of your map. It matches what

    I would expect to see, broadly fewer instances of pollen being registered in Scotland, more in the south and southeast of England.” - Dr Peter Burt, Biometeorologist
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    0" 0.2" 0.4" 0.6" 0.8" 1" 0" 5" 10" 15"

    20" 25" 30" 35" Normalised+Occurrence+per+Week+ Normalised"RCGP"(all)" Normalised"Tweets" Comparison between the number of tweets with the GP reported data for the first 31 weeks of 2014 (r=0.97, p<0.01)
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    Daily peaks of hay fever incidence can be identified as

    they happen in specific places in the UK.
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    For comparison the Met Office offered to provide Daily stats

    from March 2011 up until May 2013 for 18 UK locations at a cost of £12,100 + Vat