Health

Study: Google Searches Reveal Mental Health Patterns

Mark Lennihan/AP File Photo

PROBLEM: Google overhyped the flu this year, which seemed to be a blow to the company's claim that it can track disease in real-time. Not to mention, the CDC was doing a fine job monitoring the virus's spread without the help of Google's search-based analysis. Traditional epidemiological surveillance techniques are less reliable, though, when it comes to mental illness, which remains complex and stigmatized enough that there's reason to believe people may be more comfortable consulting the Internet than their doctors. 

METHODOLOGY: Public health experts at San Diego State looked at every mental health query made on Google between 2006 and 2010 in the U.S. and Australia. They identified searches that used "language suggestive of mental health matters,"  which usually involved people either attempting to self-diagnose or treat themselves, or looking up information on behalf of a friend or family member.

The researchers specifically analyzed this data in terms of seasonal changes: shorter, darker days are known to increase symptoms of depression, but little is known about possible patterns for other mental illnesses. They adjusted for big news stories, to avoid the effects of media hype like that which caused Google to suggest that the flu was more widespread than it actually was.

Read more at The Atlantic

Threatwatch Alert

Stolen device

Desktop Burglary at Temple U. Subjects Nearly 3,800 Patients to Potential ID Theft

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
// 9:19 AM ET
X CLOSE Don't show again

Like us on Facebook