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Methods and Applications of Social Media Monitoring of Mental Health During Disasters: Scoping Review

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2022, 00:00 authored by Sam Teague, A B R Shatte, E Weller, Matthew Fuller-TyszkiewiczMatthew Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, Delyse HutchinsonDelyse Hutchinson

Background
With the increasing frequency and magnitude of disasters internationally, there is growing research and clinical interest in the application of social media sites for disaster mental health surveillance. However, important questions remain regarding the extent to which unstructured social media data can be harnessed for clinically meaningful decision-making.


Objective
This comprehensive scoping review synthesizes interdisciplinary literature with a particular focus on research methods and applications.


Methods
A total of 6 health and computer science databases were searched for studies published before April 20, 2021, resulting in the identification of 47 studies. Included studies were published in peer-reviewed outlets and examined mental health during disasters or crises by using social media data.


Results
Applications across 31 mental health issues were identified, which were grouped into the following three broader themes: estimating mental health burden, planning or evaluating interventions and policies, and knowledge discovery. Mental health assessments were completed by primarily using lexical dictionaries and human annotations. The analyses included a range of supervised and unsupervised machine learning, statistical modeling, and qualitative techniques. The overall reporting quality was poor, with key details such as the total number of users and data features often not being reported. Further, biases in sample selection and related limitations in generalizability were often overlooked.


Conclusions
The application of social media monitoring has considerable potential for measuring mental health impacts on populations during disasters. Studies have primarily conceptualized mental health in broad terms, such as distress or negative affect, but greater focus is required on validating mental health assessments. There was little evidence for the clinical integration of social media–based disaster mental health monitoring, such as combining surveillance with social media–based interventions or developing and testing real-world disaster management tools. To address issues with study quality, a structured set of reporting guidelines is recommended to improve the methodological quality, replicability, and clinical relevance of future research on the social media monitoring of mental health during disasters.

History

Journal

JMIR Mental Health

Volume

9

Issue

2

Article number

e33058

Pagination

1 - 17

Publisher

JMIR Publications

Location

Toronto, Ont.

ISSN

2368-7959

eISSN

2368-7959

Language

English

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal