-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Internet searches for
information about mental illnesses follow seasonal patterns, which
suggests that there may be a stronger association between mental
disorders and changing seasons than previously believed, a new
Researchers analyzed data from Google searches for mental health
information made in Australia and the United States from 2006
through 2010. The analysis revealed that the number of such
searches in both countries was consistently higher in winter than
When they looked at specific types of mental health problems,
the researchers found that:
The study is published in the May issue of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Even though it was already known that some mental health
conditions, such as seasonal affective disorder, are associated
with seasonal patterns, the researchers said they were surprised to
find a link between seasons and a number of major mental health
"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," Dr. James Niels Rosenquist, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a journal news release.
Much more research is needed to determine how this type of
information might be used in prevention and treatment programs, he
and his colleagues noted.
Another one of the study authors, Benjamin Althouse, a doctoral
candidate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said
this type of Internet search analysis "can help researchers across
the field of mental health generate additional new [theories] while
exploring other trends inexpensively in real-time."
Althouse added in the news release, "For instance, moving
forward, we can explore daily patterns in mental health
information-seeking . . . maybe even finding a 'Monday effect.' The
potential is limitless."
The U.S. National Institute on Mental Health has more about
illnesses and health.
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