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Fixin' Healthcare

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Lifestyle Chronicles - Mood Swings

There never could be any doubt that a public mood exists. In all probability there is a worldwide and national mood with local nuances. The aggragate mood must be the result of individual moods but the prevailing mood also has to influence individuals. Moods are derived from circumstances but the specific nature of these circumstances are not always apparant.

One readily available tool for assessing public moods is financial markets. Another method related to markets is shopping and consumer activity. The utilization of antidepressants also would be a selective barometer of mood except for the fact that once started they are continued. If the mood improves, it is believed to be the result of the medication.

Dutch researcher Maarten de Rijke and co-workers have developed a program to detect and explain mood patterns on the Internet. The opinions and experiences of tens of millions of people can be followed every day. Their project is called MoodViews and it follows the mood of 2 million bloggers from around the world. Each day the programs pick up about 150,000 blog messages. The reliability of the tool is assessed by determining if independently measured responses to worldwide events can be linked to global mood detected by MoodViews.

MoodViews has three components. One monitors the global mood of bloggers. Another uses language technology to predict mood on the Web. The third component records unusual peaks in mood levels and uses search engine technology to find an explanation for mood swings.

Of course, market researchers and psychologists are interested in these tools and the results. The linkage of mood and health, or at least the perception of health, present an opportunity to use these tools to search for ways to improve public health.

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