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December 22, 2011

Tweets show decline in global happiness


Astudy at the University of Vermont shows that global happiness is on the decline. What's unique about the study is that the researchers analyzed and quantified tweets to get their results. According to USA Today, the team of mathematicians analyzed 4.6 billion tweets from around the world over a period of 33 months. They assigned happiness grades to the tweets and put the values on a graph. The result was a downward slope, indicating that global happiness is falling. The researchers assigned happiness grades to the tweets by picking common words across the 63 million Twitter users' tweets they were analyzing. They assigned a number between 1 and 9 to indicate the level of happiness to the word; 9 being the extreme end of happiness. For example, "laughter" was assigned 8.5 while the word, "the" was assigned 4.98 and "terrorist" was assigned 1.3.
 
We're getting sadder ..


Of course, the slope is not a steady declining one. There are spikes that take place on Christmas, on other holidays and weekends. As expected, happiness tends to sink on Mondays and Tuesdays. Twitter was used for the study because it is a medium where people write what they are thinking and feeling. Peter Dodds, an applied mathematician and the study's lead author, said, "Those messages can be seen as a reflection of an individual's mood of the moment — as opposed to "a longer-term reflective evaluation" of the person's life."

The results of this study have been published in PLoS One, an international journal, which is peer reviewed, and carries papers on topics in the field of science and medicine.

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