UK online searches for mental health-related terms are rising fast: RedArc analysis

The number of searches for mental health related terms has increased dramatically over the past four years, according to new analysis from RedArc, highlighting that ‘Dr Google’ and online content play an important role in supporting people who suffer from these conditions.

• The number of monthly searches undertaken in the UK for the specific term ‘mental health’ has more than doubled in the past 4 years from around 27,800 in 2015 to 69,200 in 2019.

• Analysing the monthly searches for 893 broader phrases that Google understands as being related to ‘mental health’, shows a 37 per cent increase from 2015 to 2019.

• Of these, the three specific terms with the highest number of monthly searches during this four year period are ‘anxiety’, ‘depression’ and ‘bipolar’.

• These trends mirror data released by Google itself earlier this year that highlighted around 7 per cent of worldwide Google daily searches were health related, equivalent to 70,000 every minute.

• Search data also highlights peaks of activity during Mental Health Awareness Week (in May) and Mental Health Day (in October).

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc nurses says:

“Of course not every single mental health-related search is someone needing help or advice but the statistical evidence, as well as our own experience, certainly points towards an increase in demand.

“Individuals need to ensure they are seeking advice from a reputable source as there is a lot of content out there of a dubious nature. We’re also extremely pleased to see Google taking steps towards supporting mental health – particularly for those most vulnerable.”

For example, someone typing in ‘How to kill myself’ in to the Google search engine, will now be met with information from The Samaritans and NHS England within the top two results.

How employers can also help

Employers often have contact with their staff on a day-to-day basis and are therefore extremely well positioned to detect any changes in behaviour that might indicate deterioration in an employee’s mental health. Not only that but via employee benefits such as group risk schemes, employee assistance programmes or private medical insurance, employers can provide mental health support in a number of ways such as via apps, online factsheets, self-help guides through to clinical assessments, counselling and therapy.

Christine Husbands continued:

“We’re never going to stop people using search engines to research potential mental health conditions, but we do need to help people make a judgement about which sources to trust. Employers should be looking to fill this space either directly or via a third party to ensure that staff only receive the highest quality of information and that it is just as easy to source as using a search engine and is backed up with real interventions should a member of staff need it.”