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Google searches about mental illness follow seasonal patterns
Date:4/8/2013

San Diego, CA, April 9, 2013 A new study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that Google searches for information across all major mental illnesses and problems followed seasonal patterns, suggesting mental illness may be more strongly linked with seasonal patterns than previously thought.

Monitoring population mental illness trends has been an historic challenge for scientists and clinicians alike. Typically, telephone surveys are used to try to glimpse inside the minds of respondents, but this approach is limited because respondents may be reluctant to honestly discuss their mental health. This approach also has high material costs. As a result, investigators have not had the data they need.

"The Internet is a game changer," said lead investigator John W. Ayers, PhD, MA, of the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. "By passively monitoring how individuals search online we can figuratively look inside the heads of searchers to understand population mental health patterns."

Using Google's public database of queries, the study team identified and monitored mental health queries in the United States and Australia for 2006 through 2010. All queries relating to mental health were captured and then grouped by type of mental illness, including ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder), anxiety, bipolar, depression, eating disorders (including anorexia or bulimia), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), schizophrenia, and suicide. Using advanced mathematical methods to identify trends, the authors found all mental health queries in both countries were consistently higher in winter than summer.

The research showed eating disorder searches were down 37 percent in summers versus winters in the U.S., and 42 percent in summers in Australia. Schizophrenia searches decreased 37 percent during U.S. summers and by 36 percent in Australia.

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Contact: Brianna Lee
eAJPM@ucsd.edu
858-534-9407
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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