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ArXiv Preprint

Social media discussion of COVID-19 provides a rich source of information into how the virus affects people's lives that is qualitatively different from traditional public health datasets. In particular, when individuals self-report their experiences over the course of the virus on social media, it can allow for identification of the emotions each stage of symptoms engenders in the patient. Posts to the Reddit forum r/COVID19Positive contain first-hand accounts from COVID-19 positive patients, giving insight into personal struggles with the virus. These posts often feature a temporal structure indicating the number of days after developing symptoms the text refers to. Using topic modelling and sentiment analysis, we quantify the change in discussion of COVID-19 throughout individuals' experiences for the first 14 days since symptom onset. Discourse on early symptoms such as fever, cough, and sore throat was concentrated towards the beginning of the posts, while language indicating breathing issues peaked around ten days. Some conversation around critical cases was also identified and appeared at a roughly constant rate. We identified two clear clusters of positive and negative emotions associated with the evolution of these symptoms and mapped their relationships. Our results provide a perspective on the patient experience of COVID-19 that complements other medical data streams and can potentially reveal when mental health issues might appear.

Curtis Murray, Lewis Mitchell, Jonathan Tuke, Mark Mackay

2020-05-21