Googling Gout: Exploring Perceptions About Gout Through a Linguistic Analysis of Online Search Activities

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019 Mar;71(3):419-426. doi: 10.1002/acr.23598.


Objective: To understand what terms people seeking information about gout use most frequently in online searches and to explore the psychological and emotional tone of these searches.

Methods: A large de-identified data set of search histories from major search engines was analyzed. Participants who searched for gout (n = 1,117), arthritis (arthritis search control group, age and sex-matched, n = 2,036), and a random set of age and sex-matched participants (general control group, n = 2,150) were included. Searches were analyzed using Meaning Extraction Helper and Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count.

Results: The most frequent unique searches in the gout search group included gout-related and food-related terms. Those who searched for gout were most likely to search for words related to eating or avoidance. In contrast, those who searched for arthritis were more likely to search for disease- or health-related words. Compared with the general control group, higher information seeking was observed for the gout and arthritis search groups. Compared with the general control group, both the gout and arthritis search groups searched for more food-related words and fewer leisure and sex-related words. The searches of both the gout and arthritis search groups were lower in positivity and higher in the frequency of sadness-related words.

Conclusion: The perception of gout as a condition managed by dietary strategies aligns with online information seeking about the disease and its management. In contrast, people searching for information about arthritis focus more on medical strategies. Linguistic analyses reflect greater disability in social and leisure activities and lower positive emotion for those searching for gout or arthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Gout / diagnosis
  • Gout / psychology*
  • Gout / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Linguistics / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception*
  • Search Engine / methods*
  • Young Adult