SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Jan. 7, 2014)We ring in the New Year with hopes of being healthy, wealthy, and wise. A new study led by San Diego State University School of Public Health research professor John W. Ayers suggests that from a public health standpoint, health and wealth may be connected.
Ayers and his team examined the Google search patterns of Americans during the recent Great Recession and discovered that during that period, people searched for keywords related to stress-related health symptoms much more frequently than they would have if the recession hadn't taken place.
"There were 200 million excess health queries during the Great Recession," Ayers said.
While it's impossible to ascertain the motives of everyone who searched those terms, it's likely that most of these excess symptom searches reflect people who experienced these symptoms and sought out health information, Ayers said.
By looking for these more-frequent-than-expected search terms and matching them up to world events, Ayers added, public health officials can conduct population health surveillance on an unprecedented scale.
In the new study, published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Ayers and his colleagues identified five root words associated with psychosomatic symptoms: chest, headache, heart, pain, and stomach. Controlling for search terms that might return false positives (such as "tool chest"), the researchers looked at how frequently people in the United States searched for those root terms during the Great Recession, here defined as December 2008 through 2011, and came up with a list of 343 commonly searched symptoms.
Next, the researchers calculated what the values for those symptoms' search frequency over the same period would have been if there had been no Great Recession, correcting for such variables as the growing availability of Internet availability and increased usage.
Comparing those values
|Contact: Beth Chee|
San Diego State University