Association of Internet search trends with suicide death in Taipei City, Taiwan, 2004-2009

J Affect Disord. 2011 Jul;132(1-2):179-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.01.019. Epub 2011 Mar 2.


Background: Although Internet has become an important source for affected people seeking suicide information, the connection between Internet searches for suicide information and suicidal death remains largely unknown. This study aims to evaluate the association between suicide and Internet searches trends for 37 suicide-related terms representing major known risks of suicide.

Methods: This study analyzes suicide death data in Taipei City, Taiwan and corresponding local Internet search trend data provided by Google Insights for Search during the period from January 2004 to December 2009. The investigation uses cross correlation analysis to estimate the temporal relationship between suicide and Internet search trends and multiple linear regression analysis to identify significant factors associated with suicide from a pool of search trend data that either coincides or precedes the suicide death.

Results: Results show that a set of suicide-related search terms, the trends of which either temporally coincided or preceded trends of suicide data, were associated with suicide death. These search factors varied among different suicide samples. Searches for "major depression" and "divorce" accounted for, at most, 30.2% of the variance in suicide data. When considering only leading suicide trends, searches for "divorce" and the pro-suicide term "complete guide of suicide," accounted for 22.7% of variance in suicide data.

Conclusions: Appropriate filtering and detection of potentially harmful source in keyword-driven search results by search engine providers may be a reasonable strategy to reduce suicide deaths.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / mortality
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Divorce / psychology
  • Divorce / trends
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet / trends*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / mortality
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / trends*
  • Taiwan
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult