How Do General-Purpose Sentiment Analyzers Perform when Applied to Health-Related Online Social Media Data?

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2019 Aug 21:264:1208-1212. doi: 10.3233/SHTI190418.


Sentiment analysis has been increasingly used to analyze online social media data such as tweets and health forum posts. However, previous studies often adopted existing, general-purpose sentiment analyzers developed in non-healthcare domains, without assessing their validity and without customizing them for the specific study context. In this work, we empirically evaluated three general-purpose sentiment analyzers popularly used in previous studies (Stanford Core NLP Sentiment Analysis, TextBlob, and VADER), based on two online health datasets and a general-purpose dataset as the baseline. We illustrate that none of these general-purpose sentiment analyzers were able to produce satisfactory classifications of sentiment polarity. Further, these sentiment analyzers generated inconsistent results when applied to the same dataset, and their performance varies to a great extent across the two health datasets. Significant future work is therefore needed to develop context-specific sentiment analysis tools for analyzing online health data.

Keywords: Computing Methodologies; Social Media.

MeSH terms

  • Social Media*