Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers discovered patterns of significantly decreased joy, increased sadness, fear and disgust among health care 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 groundbreaking research Indicates data-driven approaches for analyzing social media networks 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. It was funded by the BGU Coronavirus Taskforce and by an Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology Coronavirus research grant.
“Americans for Ben-Gurion University is proud of the fact that BGU President, Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, and the University’s researchers launched the BGU Coronavirus Task Force out of sheer goodwill,” says Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of Americans for Ben-Gurion University. “This critical initiative led to many remarkable research projects that have helped Israel in its ongoing battle against COVID-19.”
Seserman adds, “There’s no doubt that BGU’s pursuit of innovative solutions will lead to better resources for health care professionals, who now more than ever must be granted suitable mental and medical support as they are the at the forefront of a worldwide pandemic.”
Americans for Ben-Gurion University partners with the University through a variety of programming and community outreach across the United States. The organization is dedicated to developing the Negev region and ensuring Israel’s future by supporting impactful research, including this study, along with BGU’s innovation and education.
“Our findings, which track increasing sadness and decreasing joy, should be a warning to health organizations about how the importance of better mental health support to help HCPs cope with emotional pandemic consequences,” says Dr. Rami Puzis, BGU’s Software and Information System 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.”
In addition to Dr. Puzis and Dr. Cohen, the BGU team included Aviad Elyashar and Ilia Plochotnikov of BGU’s Software and Information System Engineering; and Idan-Chaim Cohen, of BGU’s School of Public Health.