Social media activities mostly drive negative sentiments on topics related to obesity

The tweets for the study covered more over 240 topics. Representational image: Reuters

London: According to a study analysing more than 25,000 posts shared on the social media platform, tweets about obesity are predominantly negative.

The findings to be presented at the upcoming European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Dublin, Ireland (17-20 May), showed that about 72.97 per cent of tweets represented negative sentiments, followed by neutral (18.78 per cent) and positive (8.25 per cent).

The analysis, by researchers in Switzerland and the UK, included 25,580 tweets about obesity that were posted between December 2019 to December 2021. The data were extracted and analysed using artificial intelligence.

The tweets covered 243 topics including childhood obesity, COVID-19 vaccination, racism and high obesity rates among minorities, smoking, illicit substance use and alcohol consumption among people with obesity, environmental risk factors for obesity (such as unavailability of green spaces), polycystic ovary syndrome and surgical treatments.

"Obesity can lead to serious physical, mental, and social health problems and its prevalence is increasing worldwide among people of all age groups," said researcher Dr Jorge Correia, of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Nutrition and Therapeutic Patient Education, at the University Hospitals of Geneva.

Further, the team linked spikes in Twitter activity with significant political events such as when the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the US, Nancy Pelosi, described the then President, Donald Trump, as "morbidly obese".

A total of 1,003 tweets were posted on this topic over several days. Around 94 per cent of the tweets were negative in sentiment.

The largest number of tweets related to the issue of Covid vaccination for people with obesity, followed by Nancy Pelosi's comments on Donald Trump being "morbidly obese".

The third largest group of tweets wasn't made up of tweets from the public but of tweets from research teams about their work on obesity. Racism towards Black people was the fourth most tweeted topic.

In addition, negative tweets often talked about increased hospitalisations and death due to Covid-19 among people with obesity and about how people living with obesity are responsible for their weight.

"The negative portrayal of obesity by influential politicians and celebrities may increase stigma against people living with obesity, and also harm public health by spreading misinformation," Dr Correia said. The team recommended using the platform to make information about obesity available to the public.

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