Boston Children's Hospital and Merck to Study Social Media Behavior to Characterize Insomnia

    Boston Children's Hospital and Merck to Study Social Media Behavior to
                            Characterize Insomnia

Study will use social media to reveal burden, sources and triggers of sleep
disorders in the U.S.

PR Newswire

BOSTON, Feb. 26, 2014

BOSTON, Feb. 26, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Investigators at Boston
Children's Hospital and Merck will collaborate on a new study aimed at using
social media platforms to better understand insomnia. The researchers aim to
contribute new, meaningful information to the scientific community on the
predictors of sleep deprivation based on social media-related behaviors,
personal online associations and other social and demographic information.

John Brownstein, PhD, co-founder of HealthMap and member of Boston Children's
Informatics Program, will lead the project team at the hospital.

Insomnia is thought to affect some 58 percent of Americans at least a few
nights per week; 30 percent of Americans have some form of chronic sleep
disorder. However, little is known about the true burden of insomnia, as
diagnosis largely relies on self-reporting.

As Americans continue to spend more time online, harnessing publicly available
information from social media networks, like Twitter and Facebook, may allow
researchers to identify individuals who exhibit insomnia symptoms and could
potentially aid in improving patient diagnosis.

"This project is using new data sources to carry out basic epidemiology
research on sleep disorders and better understand the patient experience of
insomnia," Brownstein says. "The social media content people produce could
teach us a great deal about factors driving sleep disorders, and help uncover
new populations of insomnia patients that haven't yet been described."

The researchers will combine Twitter data, including tweet content and
frequency, as well as Facebook data—such as "likes," user analytics (e.g., log
in/out times, time spent on site) and demographics—to identify a sample of
users likely experiencing insomnia and describe differences between these
individuals and average Twitter or Facebook users.

That description will serve as the basis of a new social media-based
definition of insomnia, which the team will validate in a subsample of social
media users by administering a standard survey.

"We are very interested in pushing the boundaries of the science of social
media and to see this as an opportunity to better understand the patient
voice, in this case, how people share information about sleep problems and
their day-to-day impact on quality of life," says Sachin Jain, MD, MBA, chief
medical information and innovation officer at Merck.

"This data source could offer a powerful tool to monitor the sleep health of a
city, state or country, and it may offer additional tools in the prevention or
treatment of insomnia," Jain adds.

Boston Children's Hospital is home to the world's largest research enterprise
based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both
children and adults since 1869. More than 1,100 scientists, including seven
members of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 members of the Institute of
Medicine and 14 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Boston
Children's research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children,
Boston Children's today is a 395-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and
adolescent health care. Boston Children's is also the primary pediatric
teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about
research and clinical innovation at Boston Children's, visit:

Erin Tornatore
Boston Children's Hospital
617-919-3110 |

SOURCE Boston Children's Hospital

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