Background: Public health statistics are often released too late to affect reversible societal factors affecting suicide. Increasingly, internet search volume is used in epidemiology, but this method has not yet been applied to suicide.
Methods: Google internet search engine activity for suicide-related terms from the years 2004-2009 was measured and correlated to available suicide and intentional self-injury data from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC).
Results: Google search volumes correlated to CDC statistics for both suicide and self-injury, but in patterns that differed by age. Whereas internet search activity was negatively correlated to the suicide rate in the general population, it was positively correlated to both intentional self-injury and completed suicides among youth.
Conclusions: Monitoring changes in search volumes on the internet may provide an early indicator of suicide risk within the population. Furthermore, youth may utilize the internet in ways that differ from the general population with respect to suicide.
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