General public’s information-seeking patterns of topics related to obesity: Google trends analysis

Aditya S. Pawar, Sajan Nagpal, Neha Pawar, Lilach O. Lerman, Alfonso Eirin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Obesity is a major public health challenge, and recent literature sheds light on the concept of “normalization” of obesity. Objective: We aimed to study the worldwide pattern of web-based information seeking by public on obesity and on its related terms and topics using Google Trends. Methods: We compared the relative frequency of obesity-related search terms and topics between 2004 and 2019 on Google Trends. The mean relative interest scores for these terms over the 4-year quartiles were compared. Results: The mean relative interest score of the search term “obesity” consistently decreased with time in all four quartiles (2004-2019), whereas the relative interest scores of the search topics “weight loss” and “abdominal obesity” increased. The topic “weight loss” was popular during the month of January, and its median relative interest score for January was higher than that for other months for the entire study period (P<.001). The relative interest score for the search term “obese” decreased over time, whereas those scores for the terms “body positivity” and “self-love” increased after 2013. Conclusions: Despite a worldwide increase in the prevalence of obesity, its popularity as an internet search term diminished over time. The reason for peaks in months should be explored and applied to the awareness campaigns for better effectiveness. These patterns suggest normalization of obesity in society and a rise of public curiosity about image-related obesity rather than its medical implications and harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20923
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Infodemiology
  • Infoveillance
  • Normalization
  • Obesity
  • Public awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Informatics

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