Access to the internet has changed the way many industries work, and healthcare is absolutely one of them. Now, instead of immediately booking a doctor’s appointment, internet users are very likely to query symptoms online and look for the solutions themselves.
We picked a number of conditions from categories including respiratory, digestive, mental health, dermatology, and sports injuries. Then, we looked at Google Trends* data from across the country to see which areas were currently searching for these terms the most frequently.
We also looked at the concentration of relevant healthcare occupations in high search areas (with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), as well as at supplementary data including pollution levels, sports participation and climate. Here are our results:
Depression alone garners over 450,000 average monthly searches in America. Mental health is a huge topic of discussion and query online, but some of the areas with high volume were a surprise.
Stress: Columbus, OH
Depression: Columbus, OH
Anxiety: Boston, MA
Columbus, OH came out on top in the trends data for both stress and depression, with Columbus residents searching for the term on average 1,300 times per month. Interestingly, Portland, OR also ranked highly with both terms and was also named the worst state in the country to live if you are affected by mental health issues, according to Mental Health America. Boston, MA ranked first for anxiety, but also highly for the other two selected search queries.
There are 700 Psychologists in Massachusetts, with a location quotient of 2.42 it is the second highest concentration of the profession in the country.
There were fewer surprises when we looked at sports injury search data. States with a higher rate of sports participation tended to search for injuries that we would associate with sports.
Tennis Elbow: Minneapolis, MN
Sciatica: Portland, OR
Shin Splints: St. Louis, MO
Retale recently ranked each state’s ‘sportiness’ based on a number of factors, including miles run per capita and the split of commuters cycling or walking. Massachusetts was second in the country overall, so it’s no surprise Boston features in all three of our lists. As the top state in the country for miles run per capita, it’s also fourth on the list of the cities who search for ‘shin splints’, a common running ailment.
There are 4,240 physical therapists in the metropolitan area of Boston, making it the 4th highest concentration of the profession in any city in the country.
Asthma and other respiratory illnesses have been on the increase since the 1980s. While there are many theories about the reasons behind this, which areas seem to be the most intent on learning about the condition, and why?
Hayfever: Boston, MA
Asthma: Louisville, KY
Flu: Detroit, MI
Our research revealed that despite being a recurring condition that we might assume people are already fully aware of, there are still over 165,000 average monthly searches for asthma in the country.
There have been scientific links made between asthma and pollution levels, so it’s not surprising that Louisville, KY the city at the top of the list, is in the top 10 most polluted cities in America.
The East Coast and the Deep South both dominate the rankings for flu, with no cities on the West Coast ranking. Hayfever searches do seem to be concentrated in the North East’s ‘megalopolis’ of Boston, New York, and Washington, another condition with evidence that links it to the high pollution levels in cities, which can trap pollen in the air.
There are 2,380 respiratory therapists in Kentucky, with a location quotient of 1.48 it has the second highest concentration of the profession in the country.
Dandruff: San Jose, CA
Eczema: Philadelphia, PA
Warts: Detroit, MI
Athlete’s Foot: Atlanta, GA
When it comes to skin conditions, there is some correlation between hot weather and the number of searches. San Francisco and San Jose (California), and Nashville (Tennessee) all feature in the top 10 for eczema, a skin condition that is worsened by hotter climates and both are in the top 15 hottest states in the country.
There is also, understandably, some correlation between the search hotspots for sports injuries and those searching for athlete’s foot. The home of its eponymous marathon, Boston, comes fourth on the list for the fungal condition.
California and Washington are the only two states on the West Coast who don’t feature in the top 10 for high concentrations skincare specialists. They are also the only two West Coast states with cities (San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle) in the top 10 searches for eczema and dandruff.
Digestive conditions can be caused by any number of factors and could be hereditary, congenital or perhaps most commonly caused by diet. So where in the country seems to be querying most commonly about digestive conditions?
Stomach Pain: Detroit, MI
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Columbus, OH
Diarrhea: Nashville, TN
According to the US National Library of Medicine, 76% of all irritable bowel syndrome sufferers go undiagnosed. This may explain why up to 165,000 people a month search for the condition online.
Nashville features heavily in all three lists, topping the list for diarrhea, but also in the top 4 for both IBS and stomach pain. While fast food can’t be blamed directly for these searches, Tennessee does have the 6th highest concentration of fast-food restaurants in the country. An unbalanced diet full of rich junk food may be having some effect on the stomachs of residents, causing them to Google their symptoms!
Tennessee has the third lowest concentration of dietitians and nutritionists in the country, with only 950 in the whole state.
Common colds and sore throats are not always worth visiting a doctor for, and migraines aren’t always easily treatable, so many sufferers now simply search online. Migraine alone gets over 210,000 searches every month.
Sore Throat: Detroit, MI
Common Cold: Washington D.C.
Ulcers: Nashville, TN
Migraine: Pittsburgh, PA
The common cold has the most search volume in the North of the country, with Seattle and Portland both representing the Pacific Northwest, and Philadelphia and Washington, the East Coast. With both areas having wetter climates than their southern cousins, colds often spread more easily, which could explain the concentrations of search volume, as more sufferers search for remedies.
The democratization of health and the ease of access to medical advice can be very beneficial. It can save doctors and health professionals from seeing patients with ailments that could be treated in the home, which, in theory, means they have more time to spend with patients who really need their help. However, it also leaves patients at risk of not getting a proper diagnosis.
Dr. Robert Hasty, Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine commented:
“Easy access to health information has the potential to empower patients and improve health. However, patients should be cautious with using unvetted health information and should involve healthcare professionals to help make informed decisions.”
A high level of searches for a specific ailment in any given area is not a definite science, but could give some indication of a shortfall with education or employment, a wider problem related to the geographical location of the city, or an indication of environmental factors in the area. The internet is a great resource, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for assessments by trained medical professionals.
Why do you think certain ailments are searched for more in certain areas? Have you noticed any trends where you live? Let us know on Twitter @sunbeltstaffing.
* Google Trends data is an unbiased sample of Google search data. Only a percentage of searches are used to compile Trends data.
Real-time data is a random sample of searches from the last seven days.
Non-real time data is a random sample of Google search data that can be pulled from as far back as 2004 and up to 36 hours prior to your search.
Once the search data is collected, we categorize it, connect it to a topic, and remove any personal information.