Right after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic due to the novel coronavirus, Google trends saw a spike in a search term. In SEO language, we call them keywords, and these happen to be mental health symptoms in this case.
Researchers from Tulane University, Central Michigan University, and Loyola University used Google search trends to create an extensive list of mental health terms. People were searching for such terms, and these include panic attacks, anxiety, self-care techniques, and more.
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How researchers detect mental health symptoms rise in Google Trends?
The best part about Google is that it is publicly accessible. It allows everyone to examine population levels, variation, and frequency to understand how keywords work. The data update happens in real-time; anyone can examine the same and focus on a certain area for accurate results. For example, a nation, a state, or a city, anyone searching can target a certain area and find relativity.
It is also important to acknowledge that analyzing search terms can also reflect uncensored desired data and lack biases of self-given surveys. Google Trends help predict societal outcomes like voting behavior, disease transmission, economic indicators, and more. Currently, the same strategy helps identify people’s mental health condition and requirements.
Interestingly, the research did not find an increase in terms like abuse, loneliness, suicidality, and depression. However, there can be a change and increase in searches of these terms, according to the researchers. Thus, they will continue their surveillance on Google Trends, for the same reason.
What does the research suggest?
The researchers admit that looking for self-isolating terms or feeling lonely during a contagious virus outbreak is natural. Moreover, the stress levels have increased for everyone due to the economic scenario. For example, work from home is a complete shift from working at the office. Moreover, not retaining physical proximity at work or managing a new work-life has been challenging for most.
The researchers published a journal to share the outcomes of such scenarios. Michael Hoerger, the author of this study and assistant professor of psychology from Tulane, said that their analysis started after the pandemic was declared that it is “the tip of the iceberg.” He also said that they expect to see a declining rate of mental health issues in society with time. These search terms can include PTSD, depression, suicide, community violence, complex bereavement, and more.
For every person who dies from coronavirus, approximately nine family members and relatives are deeply affected for a long time. Thus, the research suggests that Americans experience a meaningful increase in anxiety issues and are looking for common treatment techniques for anxiety.
The study also includes the fact that they need to continue monitoring Google Trends to understand how mental health symptoms change for the masses. Regular findings can help mental health initiatives across different ecological levels to fight the psychological impact due to COVID-19.