Introduction: Internet users perform health information-seeking searches triggered by personal symptoms or diseases. Such searches may provide information - albeit indirectly - on disease patterns and epidemiology (PLoS One. 2014, 9:e109583, PNAS 2016; 113:6689-94). It was recently reported that in Asia (more particularly in Taiwan), online searches for obesity and diet (indirectly reflecting corresponding health-seeking behaviors) at times of financial crisis (recession) were negatively related to the countrys economic indicators (JMIR Public Health Surveill 2018; 4: e37).
Purpose: The assessment of web searches in Greece on obesity/diet in relation to the countrys financial situation (now on a slow road to recovery from its sovereign debt crisis).
Method: Relative search volumes (RSVs or Google Trends Index) were collected online from Google Trends for 20112018 with the search terms obesity + diet in English & Greek. For the same time period, the course of the composite Economic Sentiment Indicator (ECI; calculated from surveys according to standardized Eurostat methods) by the Hellenic Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) was noted. Autocorrelation coefficients (ACFs) were assessed, the time series values of the RSVs and ECI were normalized, and the cross-correlations (CCFs) of the RSVs against the ECI were calculated with an autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA). Finally, the seasonality of the searches was evaluated with the Kruskall Wallis test. The statistical significance was set at P<0.05.
Results: Online searches had annual periodicity, but after the normalization of the time series, the CCFs of RSVs vs ECI values were not statistically significant. More internet searches for obesity + diet were in the spring compared to other seasons (P<0.05).
Discussion: In Greece, web searches on obesity and diet unlike in other countries were not related to the economic climate but were more prone to calendar effects, obviously reflecting differences in the countrys climate/environment and the social/cultural background of its inhabitants.
18 - 21 May 2019
European Society of Endocrinology