Little research has been done to systematically evaluate concerns of people living with diabetes through social media, which has been a powerful tool for social change and to better understand perceptions around health-related issues. This study aims to identify key diabetes-related concerns in the USA and primary emotions associated with those concerns using information shared on Twitter.
A total of 11.7 million diabetes-related tweets in English were collected between April 2017 and July 2019. Machine learning methods were used to filter tweets with personal content, to geolocate (to the USA) and to identify clusters of tweets with emotional elements. A sentiment analysis was then applied to each cluster.
We identified 46 407 tweets with emotional elements in the USA from which 30 clusters were identified; 5 clusters (18% of tweets) were related to insulin pricing with both positive emotions (joy, love) referring to advocacy for affordable insulin and sadness emotions related to the frustration of insulin prices, 5 clusters (12% of tweets) to solidarity and support with a majority of joy and love emotions expressed. The most negative topics (10% of tweets) were related to diabetes distress (24% sadness, 27% anger, 21% fear elements), to diabetic and insulin shock (45% anger, 46% fear) and comorbidities (40% sadness).
Using social media data, we have been able to describe key diabetes-related concerns and their associated emotions. More specifically, we were able to highlight the real-world concerns of insulin pricing and its negative impact on mood. Using such data can be a useful addition to current measures that inform public decision making around topics of concern and burden among people with diabetes.