The Emotional Toll of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Using Machine Learning to Analyze Online Community Forum Discourse


Background Patients with inflammatory bowel disease are using online community forums (OCFs) to seek emotional support. The impact of OCFs on well-being and their emotional content are unknown. Methods We used an unsupervised machine learning algorithm to identify the thematic content of 51,591 public, online posts from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Community Forum. Results We identified 10,702 (20.8%) posts expressing: gratitude (40%), anxiety/fear (20.8%), empathy (18.2%), anger/frustration (13.4%), hope (13.2%), happiness (10.0%), sadness/depression (5.8%), shame/guilt (2.5%), and/or loneliness (2.5%). A common subtheme was the importance of fostering social support. Conclusions High-throughput, machine learning-directed analysis of OCFs may help identify psychosocial impacts of inflammatory bowel disease on patients and their caregivers.

Crohn’s & Colitis 360