Googling mental health issues is seasonal

Google search data collected over several years shows that search terms related to mental health follow a distinctly seasonal pattern with many more people looking for this type of information over the winter. 

The data was collated from US and Australian Google searches over four years and included words and phrases related to a wide range of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders and suicide. Search volume increased significantly in winter - for example, searches to do with OCD were up 17%, suicide 27% and eating disorders including bulimia and anorexia rose by almost 40% - and fell again during the summer in both the US and Australia.

Whilst it's to be expected that more people would be searching on, say, 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' or 'SAD' in the winter, researchers were surprised how clear-cut the findings were as James Neil Rosenquist, psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained: "We didn't expect to find similar winter peaks and summer troughs for queries involving every specific mental illness or problem we studied, however, the results consistently showed seasonal effects across all conditions - even after adjusting for media trends."

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