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JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2016 Nov 25;2(2):e168. doi: 10.2196/publichealth.5384.

Estimating the Duration of Public Concern After the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station Accident From the Occurrence of Radiation Exposure-Related Terms on Twitter: A Retrospective Data Analysis.

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Kagawa University HospitalClinical Research Support CenterKita-gunJapan.
Hokkaido UniversityGraduate School of Health SciencesSapporoJapan.
Faculty of Health SciencesDepartment of Radiological TechnologyHokkaido University of ScienceSapporoJapan.
Hokkaido UniversityFaculty of Health Science SchoolSapporoJapan.
Contributed equally



After the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station accident in Japan on March 11, 2011, a large number of comments, both positive and negative, were posted on social media.


The objective of this study was to clarify the characteristics of the trend in the number of tweets posted on Twitter, and to estimate how long public concern regarding the accident continued. We surveyed the attenuation period of the first term occurrence related to radiation exposure as a surrogate endpoint for the duration of concern.


We retrieved 18,891,284 tweets from Twitter data between March 11, 2011 and March 10, 2012, containing 143 variables in Japanese. We selected radiation, radioactive, Sievert (Sv), Becquerel (Bq), and gray (Gy) as keywords to estimate the attenuation period of public concern regarding radiation exposure. These data, formatted as comma-separated values, were transferred into a Statistical Analysis System (SAS) dataset for analysis, and survival analysis methodology was followed using the SAS LIFETEST procedure. This study was approved by the institutional review board of Hokkaido University and informed consent was waived.


A Kaplan-Meier curve was used to show the rate of Twitter users posting a message after the accident that included one or more of the keywords. The term Sv occurred in tweets up to one year after the first tweet. Among the Twitter users studied, 75.32% (880,108/1,168,542) tweeted the word radioactive and 9.20% (107,522/1,168,542) tweeted the term Sv. The first reduction was observed within the first 7 days after March 11, 2011. The means and standard errors (SEs) of the duration from the first tweet on March 11, 2011 were 31.9 days (SE 0.096) for radioactive and 300.6 days (SE 0.181) for Sv. These keywords were still being used at the end of the study period. The mean attenuation period for radioactive was one month, and approximately one year for radiation and radiation units. The difference in mean duration between the keywords was attributed to the effect of mass media. Regularly posted messages, such as daily radiation dose reports, were relatively easy to detect from their time and formatted contents. The survival estimation indicated that public concern about the nuclear power plant accident remained after one year.


Although the simple plot of the number of tweets did not show clear results, we estimated the mean attenuation period as approximately one month for the keyword radioactive, and found that the keywords were still being used in posts at the end of the study period. Further research is required to quantify the effect of other phrases in social media data. The results of this exploratory study should advance progress in influencing and quantifying the communication of risk.


Kaplan-Meier estimate; Twitter; infodemiology; nuclear power plants; public concern; radiation; social media; survival analysis

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