Google searches about mental illness follow seasonal patterns
Mental illness may be more strongly linked with seasonal patterns than previously thought, according to a new study on google patterns. While some conditions, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, are known to be associated with the seasons and weather patterns, the connection between seasons and other major disorders is surprising.
“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,” says James Niels Rosenquist, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Using Google’s public database of queries, the study team identified and monitored mental health queries. Grouping the searches into ADHD, anxiety, bipolar, depression, eating disorders, OCD, schizophrenia, and suicide, the researchers found that all mental health queries in both countries were consistently higher in winter than summer—by anywhere from 16 to 42 percent.
“It is very exciting to ponder the potential for a universal mental health emollient, like Vitamin D (a metabolite of sun exposure),” says lead investigator John W. Ayers, PhD, MA, of the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. “Is it biologic, environmental, or social mechanisms explaining universal patterns in mental health information seeking? We don’t know.”
With a wide variety of mental illnesses and their treatments being studied seasonally, traditional SAD patients will benefit from more research and potential ways to alleviate their suffering. And it’s just another reminder to get outdoors and take in some sunlight during your quest to be happy!