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Analysis of Psychiatry-Related Search Engine Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic in India

N. A. Uvais, MBBS, DPM, and V. Rasmina, BDS

Published: September 24, 2020

Analysis of Psychiatry-Related Search Engine Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic in India

Amid the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, psychiatrists face the challenge of providing care while adhering to guidelines established by the public health experts to reduce transmission of the infection. In response to the pandemic, most of the government and private psychiatry outpatient services were closed across India. Government authorities also recommended telepsychiatry services to reduce nonessential in-person visits and also issued permission to establish teleconsultation services across the country. Although there is a growing concern regarding the impact of the pandemic and related lockdown on mental health, little is known regarding how the psychiatric needs of patients have evolved during the lockdown period in India, which started on March 24, 2020.1 The objective of this study is to use the Google Trends search volume index (SVI), a normalized value from 0 to 100, to understand the changes in patient interest in psychiatric search terms during lockdown in India.

Google Trends SVI data have previously been shown to describe patient interest in psychiatric issues.2-4 We used 3 common search queries: depression, anxiety, and suicide. The primary outcome was the mean SVI during 2 time intervals: prelockdown period (January 26, 2020-March 22, 2020) and the lockdown period (March 29, 2020-May 24, 2020). The difference in Google Trends SVI data was analyzed using t tests in SPSS version 21 (SPSS Inc, Armonk, New York).

A significant increase in SVI was seen between the prelockdown period and the lockdown period for all 3 psychiatric search queries: depression (63.4 vs 77.4, P < .001), anxiety (53.6 vs 69.9, P < .0001), and suicide (56.2 vs 79.2, P < .001) (Table 1, Figure 1).

Table 1

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Figure 1

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Our findings suggest that public interest in psychiatric conditions in India has been significantly influenced by the events during the pandemic, especially the nationwide lockdown. There was a significant rise in online searches for the psychiatric search terms depression, anxiety, and suicide during the lockdown period. It is possible that an increase in Google searches for psychiatric conditions such as depressive and anxiety disorders was an indication of increased need for psychiatric consultation during the lockdown, which was not possible at that time due to the closure of psychiatric clinics. However, the higher online interest in those search terms also indicates the probability that many patients in need might have utilized online telepsychiatry services in India, which carry positive clinical and policy implications.

Internet search data like Google Trends may provide valuable insights into patterns of psychiatric disorders and population behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, future well-conducted researches are needed to understand the implications of SVI in predicting patient behaviors, especially with regard to seeking help from mental health care professionals. Our study results suggest that there was a significant increase in interest in mental health conditions in India during the COVID-19 pandemic and that telepsychiatric services can play a significant role in mitigating the mental health crisis.

Received: July 13, 2020.

Published online: September 24, 2020.

Potential conflicts of interest: None.

Funding/support: None.


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aDepartment of Psychiatry, Iqraa International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India

bDepartment of Dentistry, Al Sanah Dental Speciality Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India

*Corresponding author: N. A. Uvais, MBBS, DPM, Iqraa International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India (

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2020;22(5):20com02756

To cite: Uvais NA, Rasmina V. Analysis of psychiatry-related search engine trends during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2020;22(5):20com02756.

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