Time-Series Analyses of Firearm-Related Google Searches and U.S. Suicide Rates 2004-2016
The U.S. suicide rate has increased 35% since 1999. The role of the Internet has not been thoroughly investigated despite Internet use more than doubling from 1999 to present. The majority of U.S. suicide deaths are by firearm; however, there is no examination of the association between trends in firearm Internet searches and overall and firearm monthly suicide rates. We hypothesized that search strings related to firearm suicide would be significantly associated with monthly suicide rates (both all methods and firearm).
Google Trends provides data on request frequencies of searches. Twenty-four search strings were examined representing possible searches by individuals considering firearm suicide and compared to U.S. suicide rates with time-series modeling.
In the time series with higher search volumes, consistent associations were found of negative cross-correlation at lag +1.
Several searches appeared at least sensitive enough to consistently show associations with overall and firearm suicide rates in the following month. This novel finding should be followed up as the potential exists to predict suicide trends.
Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
Capron, D. W.,
Bauer, B. W.,
Anestis, M. D.,
Tran, U. S.
(2021). Time-Series Analyses of Firearm-Related Google Searches and U.S. Suicide Rates 2004-2016. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.
Available at: https://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/18501