Background: Medical decisions made by celebrities have a profound influence on medical decisions made by the general population. Google Trends (GT) is a free, online resource with virtually no barriers to use that allows for tracking of global search volumes as a proxy for determining public interest. In this study, we utilize GT to characterize the significant and measurable effects that the May 2013 announcement of Angelina Jolie's BRCA-influenced prophylactic mastectomy, May 2015 announcement of Kylie Jenner's lip augmentation, April 2017 announcement of Caitlyn Jenner's gender affirming surgery and February 2014 media attention given to Kim Kardashian's rumored buttock augmentation had on corresponding surgical procedure volumes.
Methods: GT databases of search volumes were collected for terms related to prophylactic mastectomy, lip augmentation, gender affirming surgery and buttock augmentation categories from January 2004 to March 2019 using the "related queries" feature. Mean search volumes prior to respective announcements were compared to that of the period starting 6 months after. Additionally, the percent change from the month preceding respective celebrity announcements was compared to the month of the announcement for each search term.
Results: For mastectomy, all terms demonstrated peak interest during May 2013. Following Jolie's announcement, interest in "mastectomy" rose 1328%, "prophylactic mastectomy" rose 324%, "BRCA1" rose 316%, "BRCA2" rose 138% and "BRCA gene" rose 354%. Long-term interest was higher after May 2013 than beforehand for all terms except "prophylactic mastectomy" (each, p < 0.001). Following Kylie Jenner's announcement, interest in "lip augmentation" rose 43%, "lip enhancement" rose 37%, "lip fillers" rose 3233%, "lip implants" rose 8% and "lip injections" rose 13%. Long-term interest was higher after May 2015 than beforehand for all terms except "lip augmentation" and "lip enhancement" (each, p < 0.001). Following Caitlyn Jenner's announcement, "gender affirming surgery" rose 119%, "gender reassignment" rose 186%, "gender reassignment surgery" rose 203% and "transgender surgery" rose 35%. Long-term interest was higher after April 2017 than beforehand for all terms except "sex change" (each, p < 0.001). Following Kardashian's rumored injections, interest in "butt enhancement" rose 34% and "butt implants" rose 100%. Long-term interest was higher after February 2014 than beforehand for all terms (each, p < 0.001).
Conclusions: GT data trends correlate with shifts in real-world healthcare utilization and healthcare-related public interest caused by high-profile public events, making it a useful tool for real-time prediction of trends in public health in response to a variety of observable influences.
Level of evidence v: This journal requires that authors assign a level of evidence to each article. For a full description of these Evidence-Based Medicine ratings, please refer to the Table of Contents or the online Instructions to Authors www.springer.com/00266.
Keywords: Celebrity; Google trends; Prophylactic mastectomy; Public interest; Sex reassignment surgery.