Examining the Relationship Between Past Orientation and US Suicide Rates: An Analysis Using Big Data-Driven Google Search Queries

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Background: Internet search query data reflect the attitudes of the users, using which we can measure the past orientation to commit suicide. Examinations of past orientation often highlight certain predispositions of attitude, many of which can be suicide risk factors. Objective: To investigate the relationship between past orientation and suicide rate by examining Google search queries. Methods: We measured the past orientation using Google search query data by comparing the search volumes of the past year and those of the future year, across the 50 US states and the District of Columbia during the period from 2004 to 2012. We constructed a panel dataset with independent variables as control variables; we then undertook an analysis using multiple ordinary least squares regression and methods that leverage the Akaike information criterion and the Bayesian information criterion. Results: It was found that past orientation had a positive relationship with the suicide rate (<i>P</i>≤.001) and that it improves the goodness-of-fit of the model regarding the suicide rate. Unemployment rate (<i>P</i>≤.001 in Models 3 and 4), Gini coefficient (<i>P</i>≤.001), and population growth rate (<i>P</i>≤.001) had a positive relationship with the suicide rate, whereas the gross state product (<i>P</i>≤.001) showed a negative relationship with the suicide rate. Conclusions: We empirically identified the positive relationship between the suicide rate and past orientation, which was measured by big data-driven Google search query.
Journal of Medical Internet Research