When it comes to medical concerns, you probably turn to Google before dialing up your local doctor. Well, thanks to the work of the people at Google Trends and CNN, you can now find out what has been troubling the nation (health-wise) in 2017.
Last week, Google spokesperson Evan Barbour Grippi provided CNN with a list of the most popular health questions based on US citizens’ Google searches between January and mid-December.
So, what is it Americans want to know?
Top of the list was the question “What causes hiccups?” (the answer: various different things from guzzling soda to a sudden temperature change). This was followed by the age-old question “How to stop snoring?” (the answer: try lifestyle changes and, if that doesn’t work, over-the-counter snoring treatments) and, randomly, “What causes kidney stones?” (the answer: when urine becomes too concentrated, minerals are able to crystallize in the kidneys).
“What is lupus?” was another popular question, sneaking in at number 10. Presumably, this is because singer and actor Selena Gomez broke the news she had undergone a kidney transplant following a two year battle with lupus in September. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 322,000 in the States have “definite or probable” lupus – a condition that causes the immune system to attack their organs and tissues.
In a separate analysis, reporters used the analytics tool Google Trends to work out the year’s most frequently-asked health-related what and why questions globally. Opioids, the keto diet, and Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why were all trending in 2017.
The worsening opioid epidemic received a lot of media attention this year and people’s Google searches reflected this. In summer, it was revealed that 2016 had seen the highest number of drug overdose deaths and, in October, Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency.
The keto (or ketogenic) diet has a history that goes back decades but it saw a resurgence in 2017. According to CNN, the high (healthy) fat, low carb diet quadrupled in Google searches over the past 12 months.
13 Reasons Why (produced by Selena Gomez) was released earlier this year to critical acclaim and a great deal of controversy. The series centers on Hannah Baker, a teenager who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes explaining her reasons for killing herself. The show has been renewed for a second season but, at the time, received a lot of criticism for romanticizing suicide. (Others praised the show’s creators for raising awareness.)
Google Trends shows it certainly raised awareness but not necessarily positively – the search “how to commit suicide” climbed 26 percent following its release, while “suicide prevention” increased by 23 percent.