What Do You Say Before You Relapse? How Language Use in a Peer-to-peer Online Discussion Forum Predicts Risky Drinking among Those in Recovery

Rachel Kornfield, Catalina L. Toma, Dhavan V. Shah, Tae Joon Moon, David H. Gustafson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Increasingly, individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD) seek and provide support for relapse prevention in text-based online environments such as discussion forums. This paper investigates whether language use within a peer-to-peer discussion forum can predict future relapse among individuals treated for AUD. A total of 104 AUD sufferers who had completed residential treatment participated in a mobile phone-based relapse-prevention program, where they communicated via an online forum over the course of a year. We extracted patterns of language use on the forum within the first four months on study using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), a dictionary-based text analysis program. Participants reported their incidence of risky drinking via a survey at 4, 8, and 12 months. A logistic regression model was built to predict the likelihood that individuals would engage in risky drinking within a year based on their language use, while controlling for baseline characteristics and rates of utilizing the mobile system. Results show that all baseline characteristics and system use factors explained just 13% of the variance in relapse, whereas a small number of linguistic cues, including swearing and cognitive mechanism words, accounted for an additional 32% of the total 45% of variance in relapse explained by the model. Effective models for predicting relapse are needed. Messages exchanged on AUD forums could provide an unobtrusive and cost-effective window into the future health outcomes of AUD sufferers, and their psychological underpinnings. As online communication expands, models that leverage user-submitted text toward predicting relapse will be increasingly scalable and actionable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1184-1193
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Volume33
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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