Google searches indicate increase in suicide during pandemic
Researchers used an algorithm and analysed Google trends data for March and April to identify proportional cha…Read More
With the threat of coronavirus pandemic still looming large in several parts of the world, a study suggests that it is taking a toll on people’s mental health. Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center have found that financial distress is is strongly linked to suicide mortality. The researchers have linked Google search behaviour with suicidal behaviour.
They used an algorithm and analysed Google trends data for March and April to identify proportional changes over time in searches for 18 terms related to suicide and known suicide risk factors.
“We didn’t have a clear hypothesis about whether there would be an increase in suicide-related queries during this period of time, but we anticipated a national sense of community during the pandemic that might mitigate suicidal behaviour in the short term,” says Emily Halford, MPH, data analyst and the study’s first author.
The researchers looked at online searches about suicide and suicide risk factors and its potential impact on suicide. Studies done in the past suggest that suicide rates often decrease when disasters take place, like 9/11. However, they do increase several months later as was seen in the aftermath of the SARS outbreak in 2003.
As per the study, there was a dramatic increase in Google search terms that were related to financial distress. Terms like “I lost my job”, “unemployment” saw an increase in the number of searches. During the early days of pandemic, searches related to loneliness was also relatively higher compared to last year.
To ensure continued availability of crisis services and other mental health services will be important as the pandemic continues to drag on, the researchers said.