October 29, 2013
Around The World, Smokers Think About Quitting Mostly On Mondays
While many of us might think about breaking a bad habit on New Year’s Day, a new study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine found that Mondays are actually when most smokers are likely to think about quitting.
To reach their findings, researchers tracked global Google search records from 2008 to 2012 in English, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish and looked specifically for patterns of searches related to kicking a smoking habit, such as "help quit smoking.”The team noted that people search for topics related to quitting smoking more frequently early in the week, with the biggest search volumes being on Mondays, based on a daily ratio of quit-smoking searches to all searches. This pattern was consistent across all six languages, suggesting a universal tendency to consider quitting smoking early in the week, particularly on Mondays.
For example, Monday English query volumes were 11 percent higher than on Wednesdays, 67 percent higher than on Fridays, and 145 percent higher than on Saturdays. For all six languages in the study, Monday search volumes were 25 percent higher than the combined average number of searches for Tuesday through Sunday.
"Popular belief has been that the decision to quit smoking is unpredictable or even chaotic," said study author John W. Ayers, an epidemiologist at San Diego State University. "By taking a bird's-eye view of Google searches, however, we find anything but chaos. Instead, Google search data reveal interest in quitting is part of a larger collective pattern of behavior dependent on the day of the week."
Co-author Joanna E. Cohen, a director at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Global Tobacco Control, said tapping into this collective tendency can impact smoking cessation programs.
"Campaigns for people to quit may benefit from shifting to weekly cues," Cohen said. "We know it takes smokers many quit attempts before they succeed, so prompting them to try again on Mondays may be an effective and easy to implement campaign."
“Whether it's scheduling staff hours or buying media time, you are better off reaching people when they're thinking about their smoking habit, and Monday seems to be an ideal time,” added Morgan Johnson, co-author and research director for The Monday Campaigns, which sponsored the research. “Moreover, social support is an important factor in helping people quit smoking; knowing they are not alone when reaching out for information can help them follow through on their intentions to quit."
According to Benjamin Althouse, a researcher specializing in epidemiology at the Santa Fe Institute, the study's findings invite further investigation. "Our discovery of the weekly rhythms in smoking cessation behaviors begs other investigators to think about possible mechanisms and other behaviors," Althouse said. "Just what is it about the days of the week and how ubiquitous are these patterns?"
Ayers concluded that whatever the implications may be for future research, the study has a simple message for smokers right now. "If you're a smoker, just remember: quit this Monday. Everyone else is doing it."