Emotions and Topics Expressed on Twitter During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United Kingdom: Comparative Geolocation and Text Mining Analysis

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Background: In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought great changes to public health, society, and the economy. Social media provide a platform for people to discuss health concerns, living conditions, and policies during the epidemic, allowing policymakers to use this content to analyze the public emotions and attitudes for decision-making. Objective: The aim of this study was to use deep learning-based methods to understand public emotions on topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom through a comparative geolocation and text mining analysis on Twitter. Methods: Over 500,000 tweets related to COVID-19 from 48 different cities in the United Kingdom were extracted, with the data covering the period of the last 2 years (from February 2020 to November 2021). We leveraged three advanced deep learning-based models for topic modeling to geospatially analyze the sentiment, emotion, and topics of tweets in the United Kingdom: SenticNet 6 for sentiment analysis, SpanEmo for emotion recognition, and combined topic modeling (CTM). Results: We observed a significant change in the number of tweets as the epidemiological situation and vaccination situation shifted over the 2 years. There was a sharp increase in the number of tweets from January 2020 to February 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. Then, the number of tweets gradually declined as of February 2020. Moreover, with identification of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in the United Kingdom in November 2021, the number of tweets grew again. Our findings reveal people's attitudes and emotions toward topics related to COVID-19. For sentiment, approximately 60% of tweets were positive, 20% were neutral, and 20% were negative. For emotion, people tended to express highly positive emotions in the beginning of 2020, while expressing highly negative emotions over time toward the end of 2021. The topics also changed during the pandemic. Conclusions: Through large-scale text mining of Twitter, our study found meaningful differences in public emotions and topics regarding the COVID-19 pandemic among different UK cities. Furthermore, efficient location-based and time-based comparative analysis can be used to track people's thoughts and feelings, and to understand their behaviors. Based on our analysis, positive attitudes were common during the pandemic; optimism and anticipation were the dominant emotions. With the outbreak and epidemiological change, the government developed control measures and vaccination policies, and the topics also shifted over time. Overall, the proportion and expressions of emojis, sentiments, emotions, and topics varied geographically and temporally. Therefore, our approach of exploring public emotions and topics on the pandemic from Twitter can potentially lead to informing how public policies are received in a particular geographical area.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere40323
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Twitter
  • deep learning
  • emotion detection
  • geolocation
  • natural language processing
  • sentiment analysis
  • social media
  • topic modeling


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