Google searches show mental health trends
Apparently, it’s not just seasonal affective disorder that is exacerbated in the winter months. An analysis of Google searches on common mental illnesses found that people are far more likely to search for information on mental disorders during the winter months than in warmer months.
For the study, researchers analyzed Google’s public database for search queries on mental health in Australia and the United States between 2006 and 2010. They categorized each query by type of mental illness including OCD, schizophrenia, suicide, ADHD, anxiety, eating disorders, depression and bipolar.
According to the findings, the number of search queries in each of the categories declined during the summer months. For example, bipolar searches dropped 16 percent during the U.S.’s summer months and 17 percent during Australia’s summer, and ADHD searches dropped by 28 percent during the U.S.’s summer and 31 percent during Australia’s summer. The condition with the smallest drop was anxiety, which only dropped 7 percent during the U.S.’s summer and 15 percent during Australia’s summer.
Now, an Internet search does not necessarily mean that the searcher actually has a mental illness. But, search queries do provide a way to monitor mental health trends in a passive way without relying on self-reporting data, which is often inaccurate and unreliable.