Using Google Trends for epidemiology/public health research is a cheap and simple way to determine what a regional populace is interested in. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston wanted to know if populations that had less access to abortion wanted to know more or less about it, as judged by numbers of Google searches for “abortion.” They found:
Our initial integrative analysis found that, both in the US and internationally, the volume of Internet searches for abortion is inversely proportional to local abortion rates and directly proportional to local restrictions on abortion.
These findings are consistent with published evidence that local restrictions on abortion lead individuals to seek abortion services outside of their area. Further validation of these methods has the potential to produce a timely, complementary data source for studying the effects of health policies.
Those wanting to practice their amateur epidemiology skills can do their own trend analysis at Google Insights…
Link at Children’s Hospital Boston: Google search trends correlate with abortion rates, policies…
Full paper in BMC Public Health: Measuring the impact of health policies using Internet search patterns: the case of abortion