Recent Blog Articles
Taking up adaptive sports
Cutting and self-harm: Why it happens and what to do
Discrimination at work is linked to high blood pressure
Pouring from an empty cup? Three ways to refill emotionally
Give praise to the elbow: A bending, twisting marvel
Sneezy and dopey? Seasonal allergies and your brain
The FDA relaxes restrictions on blood donation
Apps to accelerometers: Can technology improve mental health in older adults?
Swimming and skin: What to know if a child has eczema
A muscle-building obsession in boys: What to know and do
Harvard Health Blog
Tweets, Google searches may help solve migraine mysteries
- By Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
When migraine or another type of headache strikes, some people turn to … Twitter and Google. And their Tweets and searches are providing a glimpse into how—and when—migraine and headache affect lives.
In a letter to the editor published in the January 2013 issue of Cephalalgia (the journal of the International Headache Society), researchers from Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed Google searches conducted between January 2007 and July 2012. There were more searches for “migraine” on weekdays than on weekends or holidays. A similar pattern was seen in Twitter feeds. In the Google searches, the work week peak came on Tuesday and the low on Friday; on Twitter it was Monday and Friday.
The most common time for migraine Tweets was between 6:00 am and 8:00 am, which the researchers say is a peak time for migraine attacks.
The term “headache” was Tweeted six times more often than “migraine.” Headache Tweets peaked at 7:00 am and 5:00 pm during the work week and 9:30 am on weekend days.
You can’t necessarily tell from a search term why a person is looking for that information. Tweets are different—they often include personal details. In many of the Tweets reviewed in this study, the writers described frustration, their symptoms, how long they had been plagued by migraine, the medications they were taking, and what may have kicked off their episodes.
This kind of information could be a treasure trove for researchers trying to answer questions about migraine. “An in-depth analysis of time series of Tweets by individual migraineurs may provide information on triggers such as sleep deprivation, stress, and foods,” says Dr. Clas Linnman, lead author of the study and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Do you Tweet about migraine or another health issue? If so, what do you get by doing it?
About the Author
Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Free Healthbeat Signup
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!