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Exploring online communication about cigarette smoking among Twitter users who self-identify as having schizophrenia.

Abstract

Novel approaches are needed to address elevated tobacco use among people with schizophrenia. This exploratory study examined the frequency, timing, and type of communication about tobacco-related content on Twitter among users who self-identify as having schizophrenia compared with users from the general population. Over a 200-day period from January to July 2016, Twitter users who self-identify as having a schizophrenia spectrum disorder (n = 203) and a randomly selected group of general population control users (n = 173) posted 1,544,122 tweets. Communication frequency did not differ between groups. Tweets containing tobacco-related keywords were extracted. Twitter users with schizophrenia posted significantly more tweets containing any tobacco-related terms (mean = 3.74; SD = 16.3) compared with control users (mean = 0.82; SD = 1.8). A significantly greater proportion of Twitter users with schizophrenia (45%; n = 92) posted tweets containing any tobacco terms compared with control users (30%; n = 52). Schizophrenia users showed significantly greater odds of tweeting about tobacco compared with control users (OR = 1.99; 95% CI 1.29-3.07). These findings suggest that online communication about tobacco may parallel real world trends of elevated tobacco use observed among people with schizophrenia. By showing that Twitter users who self-identify as having schizophrenia discuss tobacco-related content online, popular social media could inform smoking cessation efforts targeting this at-risk group.

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