Does the onset of winter leave you feeling glum and sullen? You’re not alone. New research has revealed that Google queries for mental health problems increase sharply in colder seasons. The findings suggest that our mental wellbeing can be directly hampered by dark and gloomy weather.
Depressed picture from Shutterstock
Researchers from San Diego State University monitored all Google mental health queries in Australia and the US from 2006 to 2010, including the phrases ‘anxiety’, ‘bipolar’, ‘depression’, ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘suicide’.
The report found that all searches followed seasonal patterns, experiencing winter peaks and summer troughs. For example, searches for ‘suicide’ declined 29 per cent in Australia during the summer, while searches for ‘schizophrenia’ dropped by more than a third.
Oddly, eating disorder queries were also significantly lower in the summer months (37 per cent). You’d think this would be a peak time for concern, what with it being bikini season and all. Go figure.
The report concludes that its methods could be a game changer for the medical profession when it comes to monitoring a population’s mental health patterns:
The current results suggest that monitoring queries can provide insight into national trends on seeking information regarding mental health, such as seasonality. Given their relatively anonymous nature, instantaneous availability, and the cost-effective manner by which the data are investigated, query trends have potential as an important adjunct to traditional surveillance.
If you’re dreading the impending gloom, we recommend stocking up on Vitamin D (a metabolite of sun exposure), surrounding yourself with friends and regularly curling up at home with a good book. Winter is what you make it.
Seasonality in Seeking Mental Health Information on Google [American Journal of Preventative Medicine]