“We wanted to see whether Google searches on ‘anxiety’ indicate people’s felt anxiety. And we wanted to see whether we could use Google search rate to improve our understanding of anxiety.”
Japan’s government periodically conducts a nationally-representative health survey, which includes a widely used measure of psychological distress and anxiety. For their study, the researchers compared this data to search records from Google Trends.
Hamamura and his colleagues found that the search rate for the Japanese words fuan and shinpai — which roughly correspond to the English word anxiety — was higher in regions where psychological distress was more prevalent. They also found that the search rates increased following a natural disaster.
“We found that anxiety is Googled when and where people are feeling anxious. This evidence supports the use of Google search on anxiety as an indicator of anxiety at the population level,” Hamamura told PsyPost.