A new study examined 80 million tweets and found the most tweeted-about foods in the United States.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Public Health and Surveillance, found Starbucks was the most-tweeted fast-food restaurant and coffee was the most talked about consumable on Twitter. The purpose of the study was to gain insight into the health of people across the United States.
Assistant professor at the University of Utah College of Health, Quynh Nguyen, and the lead author of the study explained the mission of this study was to examine health beyond diseases and traditional traits.
“Increasingly we’re seeing more and more studies looking at health beyond just disease, incorporating indicators of wellbeing,” says Quynh Nguyen, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Utah College of Health.
Her team of researchers analyzed tweets about food, physical activity and happiness and then compared the information to previous health surveys. The results of the study not only found Starbucks was the most popular fast-food restaurant on Twitter, but the most-tweeted about foods included coffee, beer, pizza, wine, chicken, ice cream and tacos. However, only 16% of food related tweets were considered healthy. In addition, 9% of tweets analyzed in the study were about fast-food.
Researchers also examined tweets by locations across the United States and found people in poorer neighborhoods were less likely to mention healthy foods. Areas with healthy-food related tweets had fewer rates of chronic diseases such as obesity and fewer deaths.
Outside of food, researchers also analyzed exercise tweets and found walking, dancing, running, hiking, swimming, and golf as the most tweeted kinds of physical activity. However, just like healthy tweets analyzed in the study, in poorer neighborhoods were less likely to tweet about engaging in any kind of physical activity.
“What was kind of nice, from a health and emotion perspective, was that tweets that mentioned food were actually happier than tweets that did not mention food, and tweets that mention healthy foods were the happiest,” Nguyen says. “Healthy food and physical activity were the happiest kind of tweets.”
Nguyen argues that this is just the start and social media platforms like Twitter can provide information about our health that is not traditionally studied or analyzed in other major studies. “So far, we are finding that they do predict area-level health outcomes at various levels: zip code, census tract, county and state,” she says. “Our next set of analyses examine whether these social environment variables predict individual-level health outcomes.”