(HealthDay News) – Seasonal patterns of information searches on all major mental illness and/or problems mirror those patterns for seasonal affective disorder, according to research published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

John W. Ayers, PhD, of the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health in SanDiego, and colleagues utilized an analytical model to evaluate the seasonal patterns of all Google mental health queries monitored in the U.S. and Australia from 2006–2010.

According to the researchers, the mental illness/problem queries followed a seasonal pattern with peaks in the winter and troughs in the summer in both the U.S. and Australia. The difference in volume between winter and summer was 14%(95% confidence interval [CI]; 11%, 16%) in the U.S. and 11%(95% CI; 7%, 15%) in Australia. This pattern was consistently observed in all specific subcategories of mental illness/problems.

“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,” the authors write.

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