Researchers use Twitter to collect data on ADHD

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania believe reviewing the social media of patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could lead to the formation of improved treatments. Findings were published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.

"On social media, where you can post your mental state freely, you get a lot of insight into what these people are going through, which might be rare in a clinical setting," said Sharath Chandra Guntuku, a postdoctoral researcher working with the World Well-Being Project in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health. "In brief 30- or 60-minute sessions with patients, clinicians might not get all manifestations of the condition, but on social media you have the full spectrum."

The study utilized the social media platform Twitter to collect data on what people with ADHA talk about. Overall, 1.3 million tweets from 1,400 users with ADHD were collected and compared to a control population of the same size. Researchers noted that people with ADHD used words like “disappointed,” “cry” and “sad” more frequently than people in the control group. Additionally, ADHD individuals use social media at times when other are usually asleep from midnight to [6 a.m.]

"The facets of better-studied conditions like depression are pretty well understood," said Lyle Ungar, with the Wharton School and Penn Medicine. "ADHD is less well studied. Understanding the components that some people have or don't have, the range of coping mechanisms that people use—that all leads to a better understanding of the condition."