If you pound out tweet after tweet without giving it much thought, now's a good time to change your strategy. New research suggests that the content of your tweets could say loads about your health and the fate of your neighbors, according to new data compiled by Twitter and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and recently published in the journal Psychological Science.
In the study, researchers compiled all the geotagged public tweets sent from 1,300 different counties in the U.S. between 2009 and 2010. (Yes, that is a whole lot of tweets.) Then, they used keywords to categorize tweets by sentiment and compared collective feelings to CDC data on heart disease-related death rates in corresponding areas.
Researchers found a pretty strong correlation between communities where people tweeted more negative emotional language (like "hate" and expletives) and the highest rates of death from heart disease—even though people who tweeted the most (Youngs) weren't the same people who got sick and died from heart disease (Olds). Communities that tweeted mostly happy things (i.e., about their #wonderful! #friends!) had fewer heart disease-related deaths.
The implication? Negativity (as measured through language patterns on Twitter) is contagious and can manifest itself in the form of poor health throughout a community. Researchers think this could be because bad vibes breed depression and unhealthy behaviors that accompany it, such as eating crap, drinking, and isolating yourself from others.
Because this study didn't prove causation, this doesn't mean that happy tweets can protect you and your neighbors. Still, it can't hurt to check your Twitter tone!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.