Web Surfers Are Most Health-Conscious Early In The Week
April 20, 2014

Web Surfers Are Most Health-Conscious Early In The Week

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

People are most concerned with their health during the beginning of the week (circaseptan), experts from San Diego State University and colleagues report in research published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Lead author John W. Ayers, a research professor in SDSU’s Graduate School of Public Health, and colleagues from the Santa Fe Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and the Monday Campaigns analyzed Google searches that included the term healthy, were health-related in nature, and originated from the US between 2005 and 2012, the university explained in a statement Friday.

They discovered that health topics were an average of 30 percent more frequent at the beginning of the week than on days later in the week, with the lowest average number of health-related searches occurring on Saturday. The pattern remained consistent from week to week and year to year, based on a daily measure to represent the ratio between the number of health-related searches to the total number of searches each day.

“Many illnesses have a weekly clock with spikes early in the week,” Ayers said in a statement. “This research indicates that a similar rhythm exists for positive health behaviors, motivating a new research agenda to understand why this pattern exists and how such a pattern can be utilized to improve the public's health.”

Overall, the Google search results revealed that the volume of health-related terms were three percent higher on Monday and Tuesday relative to Wednesday, as well as 15 percent greater than Thursday, 49 percent greater than Friday, 80 percent greater than Saturday, and 29 percent greater than Sunday. The authors believe that an analysis of their findings could be used to develop new public health strategies.

“We could be seeing this effect because of the perception that Monday is a fresh start, akin to a mini New Year's Day. People tend to indulge in less healthy behaviors on the weekend, so Monday can serve as a 'health reset' to get back on track with their health regimens,” explained Dr. Joanna Cohen, a study co-author and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“It's interesting to see such a consistent and similar rhythm emerging from search data,” added fellow co-author and Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute Benjamin Althouse. “These consistent rhythms in healthy searches likely reflect something about our collective mindset, and understanding these rhythms could lead to insights about the nature of health behavior change.”

The researchers also delved into the issue of whether or not media exposure could be responsible for the weekly pattern. However, careful monitoring of the daily frequency of news reports that encouraged healthy lifestyles revealed that those stories actually reached their peak on Wednesday and were statistically independent of health-related searches, according to Johns Hopkins research scientist Mark Dredze.

“Understanding circaseptan rhythms around health behaviors can yield critical public health gains,” the authors wrote. “For instance, government-funded health promotion programs spend $76.2 billion annually and their cost-effectiveness can be improved by targeting the population on weekday(s) when more individuals are contemplating health habits.”

Co-author Morgan Johnson, MPH, program development and research director with The Monday Campaigns, believes that the research findings could use these trends to help encourage healthier behavior amongst people.

“The challenge we face in public health is to help people sustain healthy behaviors over time,” she explained. “Since Monday comes around every seven days when people are 'open to buy' health, it can be used as a cue to help create healthy habits for life.”