Using search engine data to gauge public interest in mental health, politics and violence in the context of mass shootings

T. Vargas*, J. Schiffman, P. H. Lam, A. Kim, V. A. Mittal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Despite significant potential for providing insight to private perceptions and behaviors, search engine data has yet to be utilized as a means of gauging the U.S. public's interest and understanding of mental health in the context of gun violence and politics. An analysis of Google Trends revealed that Mental health searches increased in volume starting in the beginning of the current decade. Notably, both “mental health” and “gun(s)” were searched with greater frequency the week after the mass shooting events occurred. Related searches after the event also observed a significant increase in interest in mental health and gun regulation, legal reform, mass shootings, and gun(s). Results suggest that the American public's perception of mental illness increasingly incorporates associations with themes of violence and politics, which becomes more apparent surrounding mass shooting events. Future studies are needed to determine implications for stigmatization of vulnerable groups, and possible relations to media coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0236157
JournalPloS one
Volume15
Issue number8 July
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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