Emotional tone, analytical thinking, and somatosensory processes of a sample of Italian Tweets during the first phases of the COVID-19 pandemic : observational study

Dario Monzani, Laura Vergani, Silvia Francesca Maria Pizzoli*, Giulia Marton, Gabriella Pravettoni

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic individual and collective chronic experience, with tremendous consequences on mental and psychological health that can also be reflected in people's use of words. Psycholinguistic analysis of tweets from Twitter allows obtaining information about people's emotional expression, analytical thinking, and somatosensory processes, which are particularly important in traumatic events contexts. Objective: We aimed to analyze the influence of official Italian COVID-19 daily data (new cases, deaths, and hospital discharges) and the phase of managing the pandemic on how people expressed emotions and their analytical thinking and somatosensory processes in Italian tweets written during the first phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. Methods: We retrieved 1,697,490 Italian COVID-19-related tweets written from February 24, 2020 to June 14, 2020 and analyzed them using LIWC2015 to calculate 3 summary psycholinguistic variables: emotional tone, analytical thinking, and somatosensory processes. Official daily data about new COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospital discharges were retrieved from the Italian Prime Minister's Office and Civil Protection Department GitHub page. We considered 3 phases of managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. We performed 3 general models, 1 for each summary variable as the dependent variable and with daily data and phase of managing the pandemic as independent variables. Results: General linear models to assess differences in daily scores of emotional tone, analytical thinking, and somatosensory processes were significant (F6,104=21.53, P<.001, R2= .55; F5,105=9.20, P<.001, R2= .30; F6,104=6.15, P<.001, R2=.26, respectively). Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic affects how people express emotions, analytical thinking, and somatosensory processes in tweets. Our study contributes to the investigation of pandemic psychological consequences through psycholinguistic analysis of social media textual data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJMIR. JOURNAL OF MEDICAL INTERNET RESEARCH
Volume23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Italy
  • MHealth
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Trauma
  • Twitter
  • emotions
  • humans
  • infodemiology
  • infoveillance
  • internet
  • pandemic
  • pandemics
  • psycholinguistic analysis
  • public health
  • social media

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