COVID-19, Lockdowns and Well-Being: Evidence from Google Trends
Exclusive analysis on the consequences of lockdown using...Google as a proxy?!
That is the quite innovative or rather iconoclastic idea that a group of researchers led by Abel Brodeur from the University of Ottawa followed to assess the effects of confinement measures such as lockdown on mental health.
In essence, the team strived to fathom population's mental health and well-being through lockdown measures in Europe and America, using google search engine and the most commonly searched words that would relate to the pandemic and its effects on people.
Their conclusion draws attention: noting a substantial surge in words such as worry, loneliness and sadness but correlated to a significant decrease in searches for suicide, stress and divorce....they conclude that mental health has deteriorated during lockdown!!!
While not commenting on the method which seems questionable or lacking robustness (comparing data from 1st Jan 2019 to April 2020 and establishing differences in data based on Google search only), one cannot help but ending up puzzled by the conclusion that people looking more at "loneliness" and less at "suicide", or more at "worry" and least at "divorce" are in a degraded mental state.
The perspective does not lack boldness and is interesting. What is clearly lacking is a health sector expertise to make the study not only valid but to offer a real added value to the evaluation of the COVID-19 effects. Where are the epidemiological data to confirm the study? What are the trends in morbidity and mortality linked to the pandemic?
Can we use our google history as a proxy to our mental health? One is tempted to rather hope not!
What is your opinion? Is this something that can be replicated, used, or serve as a methodological basis for future studies?
To read the full paper: download the attachment at the top of the page