Dr. Odeya Cohen (photo by Dani Machlis/BGU) and Dr. Rami Puzis (photo courtesy)
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers discovered patterns of significantly decreased joy, increased sadness, fear and disgust among healthcare professionals (HCP) in the largest social media study to track emotional changes and discourse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the study, a multidisciplinary BGU team analyzed more than 53,000 HCP tweets from followers of several hundred Twitter accounts of healthcare organizations and common HCP points of interest. The most significant topics HCPs discussed during the pandemic were COVID-19 information, public health and social values, medical studies, as well as daily life and food. Approximately 44% of their discourse was about professional topics during the entire 2020 year.
The research indicates data-driven approaches for analyzing social media networks are helpful as a method for exploring professional health insights during both routine clinical situations and emergencies. The study will be published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. A preprint is already available online. It was funded by the BGU Coronavirus Taskforce and by an Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology coronavirus research grant.
“Our findings, which track increasing sadness and decreasing joy, should be a warning to health organizations of the importance of better mental health support to help HCPs cope with the emotional consequences of the pandemic,” say Dr. Rami Puzis of BGU’s software and information systems engineering department (SISE) and Dr. Odeya Cohen of the department of nursing. “Most interestingly, HCP tweets expressed greater levels of fear just prior to pandemic waves in 2020. This indicates that many HCPs, beyond those working in epidemiology, observed, and were adequately qualified to anticipate pandemic development.”
Puzis goes on to say, “This suggests that decision-makers could benefit from investing additional resources into listening to the broader HCP community to track and anticipate bottom-up pathways for developing health crises.”
– Courtesy Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev