Friday, April 12, 2013

Google Study Shows Searches for Mental Illness Information Are Seasonal

Analysis of an Internet search engine's use can provide useful data about how and when the public seeks information on mental illness, reported researchers in the May American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Lead investigator John Ayers, Ph.D., of the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University and colleagues evaluated all mental health queries through the Google search engine in the U.S. and Australia from 2006 to 2010, using terms such a anxiety, bipolar, depression, and suicide.

They found that queries on all of these psychiatric-illness-related terms followed seasonal patterns, with winter peaks and summer troughs. The group said the challenge of population-level mental health surveillance is limited by resource constraints, long time lags in data collection, and stigma, but the collection of passively generated digital data, like that used in their current study, is a promising approach. "If additional studies can validate the current approach by linking clinical symptoms with patterns of search queries (beyond general information seeking), this method may prove essential in promoting population mental health," they concluded.

(Image: wavebreakmedia/


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.