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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland: Study Links Racial Bias in Tweets with Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Outcomes at the State Level

Discrimination increases the risk for negative cardiovascular health outcomes, according to a new study led by Dr. Quynh Nguyen in the University of Maryland School of Public Health. This new research, published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, used social media data to characterize racism in the broader social environment. 

“We’re trying to capture what may be invisible, but still affects people’s lives,” said Dr. Nguyen, an assistant professor of epidemiology. “Using Twitter data allows us to look at not just people’s individual experiences of discrimination, but the broader context of the social environment.” 

Dr. Nguyen and colleagues categorized more than 30 million race-related tweets (from 2015-2018) and linked the tweet data with cardiovascular disease risk factors reported through the telephone-based Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.

Those living in states from which the highest number of racist tweets originated  – including Mississippi, Louisiana and Michigan – had a higher prevalence of high blood pressure (+11 percent), diabetes (+15 percent), obesity (+14 percent), stroke (+30 percent), heart attacks (+14 percent) and other CVD (cardiovascular disease) outcomes. Those living in states from which the tweets were more positive towards racial and ethnic minorities – including Utah, North Dakota and California – had a lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease.

These poorer health outcomes were seen in both non-Hispanic Blacks and non-Hispanic whites. 

“A social environment characterized by more negativity may be bad for population health overall,” Dr. Nguyen explained.

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