clinical psychology, psychological treatment, mental health, health care system, psychological research, psychotherapy, psychodiagnostic

OK Computer?

A Time Analysis of Google Searches About Symptoms

Authors

  • Keith J. Petrie
  • Kate MacKrill
  • Connor Silvester
  • Greg D. Gamble
  • Nicola Dalbeth
  • James W. Pennebaker

Abstract

Background: Google searches are now a popular way for individuals to seek information about the significance of common symptoms and whether they should seek medical assistance. As analysis of search patterns may help understand the demand for medical care, we examined what times over a 24-hour period and on what days of the week people searched Google for information about common symptoms.


Method: We analysed Google searches for symptoms in the United Kingdom during the week from July 30 to August 5, 2018 using Google Trends. We recorded the time points with the highest search volume for 50 common symptoms relative to other searches, and the day of the week with the highest search peak for each particular symptom.


Results: All of the peak searches for the symptoms we examined occurred during the night between 10pm and 8am. The majority 32/50 (64%) occurred between 3am to 6am with 12/50 (24%) between midnight and 3am. Most symptom searches were more common during the week and lowest during the weekend. Typically, searches for a particular symptom peaked at a similar time each night over the week.


Conclusions: Searches for symptoms are significantly more common during night-time hours, and particularly between 3 and 6am. Symptom searches show relatively stable diurnal and weekly patterns.

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