We’ve all done it.
With such plentiful information on the internet about every topic imaginable, it’s only natural that we would turn to Google for answers to health questions too.
And there are some legitimate sources out there, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mayo Clinic, that can tell us all about specific symptoms and what illnesses they may indicate.
What Dr. Google can’t do, however, is diagnose the cause of a condition. There’s no substitute for seeing a real doctor (we’re afraid Google’s MD is honorary, at best).
Plus, getting the scoop on what your neighbors are googling could very well change the way you see them (we’re looking at you, sweaty-palmed Californians).
Correlations and Key Findings
While there was a wide range of symptoms that seemed to concern people in each state, most states are googling symptoms that could be related to the cold and flu.
And that makes sense. According to the CDC, adults have an average of two to three colds each year, and pharmaceutical manufacturers produced and distributed 155.3 million doses of flu vaccine during the 2017–2018 flu season.
Whether this shows concern about these particular illnesses or simply about common symptoms, however, is unclear.
Meanwhile, the most googled symptom in a full one-fifth of states was stress. The American Psychological Association (APA) has been warning Americans of this serious health problem since at least 2007, so it’s no surprise people are “stressed out” over stress.
Other than the usual culprits of money and work, the current political climate, the future of the nation, and violence and crime round out the top five sources of stress for Americans.
Other fascinating findings:
- Idaho is googling E.coli symptoms, which lines up with our earlier findings on the overall medical conditions people google most. These findings make sense given that the state was “hit hard” by an outbreak of the bacterial infection this past year.
- Morning sickness was the most googled symptom in Utah, which is also the state with the second-highest number of babies born each year.
- Loss of sleep was the most googled symptom in New York, which is the home of “The City That Never Sleeps.”
- Vermont residents didn’t have a full-on runny nose or even a little congestion. They were more concerned with a serious case of the “sniffles.”
- Oklahoma residents are looking ahead to find out what the symptoms of the 2018 round of the flu will look like.
- South Carolina and Wisconsin are concerned about the color of their poop.
- South Dakotans want to know what the location of their headaches mean, and they’re looking to a chart for answers.
- In Alaska, home to the Alaskan Lumberjack Show, people are googling snoring. We guess they really do saw a lot of logs up there.
We started by digging up the most frequently searched symptoms of the past year on Google Trends. Next, we listed each symptom, along with similar symptoms, together. Finally, we ran them back through Google Trends to see which states had the highest search volume for each symptom.
Keep in mind that our findings don’t mean these are the symptoms most people have in each state, but our results do suggest which symptoms concern a lot of people.
It’s tempting to draw conclusions about our health based on what we learn from the internet. The information we find there, however, is at best a way to ask informed questions of our doctors, and at worst a path toward paranoia and unnecessary worry.
And since the most commonly googled symptom is stress, that could turn into quite a vicious cycle.
So, go ahead. Analyze Google health searches if you’re curious. But take it all with a grain of salt until you consult an actual physician.