J Med Internet Res. 2020 Jan 3 ;22(1):e15684. Epub 2020 Jan 3. PMID: 31899452
Health Effects Associated With Electronic Cigarette Use: Automated Mining of Online Forums.
BACKGROUND: Our previous infodemiological study was performed by manually mining health-effect data associated with electronic cigarettes (ECs) from online forums. Manual mining is time consuming and limits the number of posts that can be retrieved.OBJECTIVE: Our goal in this study was to automatically extract and analyze a large number (>41,000) of online forum posts related to the health effects associated with EC use between 2008 and 2015.METHODS: Data were annotated with medical concepts from the Unified Medical Language System using a modified version of the MetaMap tool. Of over 1.4 million posts, 41,216 were used to analyze symptoms (undiagnosed conditions) and disorders (physician-diagnosed terminology) associated with EC use. For each post, sentiment (positive, negative, and neutral) was also assigned.RESULTS: Symptom and disorder data were categorized into 12 organ systems or anatomical regions. Most posts on symptoms and disorders contained negative sentiment, and affected systems were similar across all years. Health effects were reported most often in the neurological, mouth and throat, and respiratory systems. The most frequently reported symptoms and disorders were headache (n=939), coughing (n=852), malaise (n=468), asthma (n=916), dehydration (n=803), and pharyngitis (n=565). In addition, users often reported linked symptoms (eg, coughing and headache).CONCLUSIONS: Online forums are a valuable repository of data that can be used to identify positive and negative health effects associated with EC use. By automating extraction of online information, we obtained more data than in our prior study, identified new symptoms and disorders associated with EC use, determined which systems are most frequently adversely affected, identified specific symptoms and disorders most commonly reported, and tracked health effects over 7 years.