"Dr. Google, I Am in Pain"-Global Internet Searches Associated With Pain: A Retrospective Analysis of Google Trends Data

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 4;17(3):954. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17030954.


We aimed to rank the most common locations of pain among Google users globally and locally and analyze secular and seasonal trends in pain-related searches in the years 2004-2019. We used data generated by Google Trends (GT) to identify and analyze global interest in topics (n = 24) related to locations of pain and how these progressed over time. We analyzed secular trends and time series decomposition to identify seasonal variations. We also calculated the interest in all topics with reference to the relative search volume (RSV) of "Abdominal pain". Google users were most commonly interested in "Headache" (1.30 [times more frequently than "Abdominal pain"]), "Abdominal pain" (1.00), and "Back pain" (0.84). "Headache" was the most frequent search term in n = 41 countries, while "Abdominal pain" was the most frequent term in n = 27 countries. The interest in all pain-related topics except "Dyspareunia" increased over time. The sharpest increase was observed for "Abdominal pain" (5.67 RSV/year), and "Toothache" (5.52 RSV/year). Most of the topics revealed seasonal variations. Among pain-related topics, "Headache," "Abdominal pain," and "Back pain" interested most Google users. GT is a novel tool that allows retrospective investigation of complaints among Internet users.

Keywords: Abdominal pain; Google Trends; Internet; back pain; headache; knee pain; location; pain; ranking; toothache.