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Article

The Validity of Google Trends Search Volumes for Behavioral Forecasting of National Suicide Rates in Ireland

1
Insight Centre for Data Analytics, NUI Galway, H91 AEX4 Galway, Ireland
2
School of Computer Science, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland
3
Psychology Department, Health Service Executive MidWest, Ennis, Ireland
4
Psychology Department, Health Service Executive Dublin Mid Leinster, Longford, Ireland
5
School of Psychology, National University of Ireland Galway, H91 EV56 Galway, Ireland
6
Suicide Prevention Resource Office, Health Service Executive West, Galway, Ireland
7
Suicide Prevention Research Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5717, USA
8
ZB MED, University of Cologne, Gleueler Str. 60, 50931 Cologne, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Indicates Co-Senior Authorship.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(17), 3201; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph16173201
Received: 12 July 2019 / Revised: 18 August 2019 / Accepted: 27 August 2019 / Published: 2 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Technological Innovation in Clinical Healthcare and Health Management)
Annual suicide figures are critical in identifying trends and guiding research, yet challenges arising from significant lags in reporting can delay and complicate real-time interventions. In this paper, we utilized Google Trends search volumes for behavioral forecasting of national suicide rates in Ireland between 2004 and 2015. Official suicide rates are recorded by the Central Statistics Office in Ireland. While similar investigations using Google trends data have been carried out in other jurisdictions (e.g., United Kingdom, United Stated of America), such research had not yet been completed in Ireland. We compiled a collection of suicide- and depression-related search terms suggested by Google Trends and manually sourced from the literature. Monthly search rate terms at different lags were compared with suicide occurrences to determine the degree of correlation. Following two approaches based on vector autoregression and neural network autoregression, we achieved mean absolute error values between 4.14 and 9.61 when incorporating search query data, with the highest performance for the neural network approach. The application of this process to United Kingdom suicide and search query data showed similar results, supporting the benefit of Google Trends, neural network approach, and the applied search terms to forecast suicide risk increase. Overall, the combination of societal data and online behavior provide a good indication of societal risks; building on past research, our improvements led to robust models integrating search query and unemployment data for suicide risk forecasting in Ireland. View Full-Text
Keywords: suicide; Google Trends; forecasting; autoregression; neural networks; Ireland suicide; Google Trends; forecasting; autoregression; neural networks; Ireland
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MDPI and ACS Style

Barros, J.M.; Melia, R.; Francis, K.; Bogue, J.; O’Sullivan, M.; Young, K.; Bernert, R.A.; Rebholz-Schuhmann, D.; Duggan, J. The Validity of Google Trends Search Volumes for Behavioral Forecasting of National Suicide Rates in Ireland. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 3201. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph16173201

AMA Style

Barros JM, Melia R, Francis K, Bogue J, O’Sullivan M, Young K, Bernert RA, Rebholz-Schuhmann D, Duggan J. The Validity of Google Trends Search Volumes for Behavioral Forecasting of National Suicide Rates in Ireland. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019; 16(17):3201. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph16173201

Chicago/Turabian Style

Barros, Joana M., Ruth Melia, Kady Francis, John Bogue, Mary O’Sullivan, Karen Young, Rebecca A. Bernert, Dietrich Rebholz-Schuhmann, and Jim Duggan. 2019. "The Validity of Google Trends Search Volumes for Behavioral Forecasting of National Suicide Rates in Ireland" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16, no. 17: 3201. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph16173201

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