Research & Resources

Using social media and online search engines to measure alcohol use

Social media and online search engines can be useful data sources when trying to understand population level behaviors and health. Researchers conducted text mining of Google Trends and Twitter posts to determine the number of searches and proportion of posts about alcohol use per state. They also examined measures of individual alcohol use collected through the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and state policy controls via the Alcohol Policy Scale per state. They found that the number of searches and proportion of posts were associated with the level of individual drinking across the states, and that the level of state policy control affected the relationship. For example, in general, the positive association between search volume and recent alcohol use was greatest in states with higher policy controls. The paper “Online Searching and Social Media to Detect Alcohol Use Risk at Population Scale” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. It was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.