More people seeking health information on the Internet were looking for help with “pain” than anything else over the last several years, according to a new study of searches related to health issues by the Google “I’m not feeling well project.”
By David Royse | LedeTree.com
The project uses Google search data to see what health-related topics people around the world are concerned about. From 2009 to 2016, pain was the number one health-related search. That may not be surprising, given that pain is a symptom of so many other broader issues that could be their own search terms. But the degree to which the data appear to show widespread concern with pain itself, is still likely to be of interest to the medical community.
Cancer was the second-leading health-related search term, with diabetes generally the third most-searched term – although it was replaced in third by acne in a few recent years.
Allergy, infection and headache all are prominently searched.
The study also looked at seasonality – how search terms change with the seasons, as well as with health-related issues that may be getting more attention at the moment in the media. News about outbreaks, for example, can boost searches for a term like “Zika.” Advertisements or celebrity attention to a disease also can affect the rankings.
As much as 5 percent of world internet traffic is related to health information. The idea that people seek information on diseases from Google could have public health uses – population health experts are beginning to talk about the idea of monitoring search terms to be able to detect outbreaks based on increased searches of certain symptoms. You can read more on that here, here and here.
View the Google “I’m Not Feeling Well” project.