Measuring Global Disease with Wikipedia: Success, Failure, and a Research Agenda
Millions of people worldwide everyday search Google or Wikipedia to look for health-related information. Aim of this study was to evaluate and interpret web search queries for terms related to movement disorders (MD) in English-speaking countries and their changes over time. We analyzed information regarding the volume of online searches in Google and Wikipedia for the most common MD and their treatments. We determined the highest search volume peaks to identify possible relation with online news headlines. The volume of searches for some queries related to MD entered in Google enormously increased over time. Most queries were related to definition, subtypes, symptoms and treatment (mostly to adverse effects, or alternatively, to possible alternative treatments). The highest peaks of MD search queries were temporally related to news about celebrities suffering from MD, to specific mass-media events or to news concerning pharmaceutic companies or scientific discoveries on MD. An increasing number of people use Google and Wikipedia to look for terms related to MD to obtain information on definitions, causes and symptoms, possibly to aid initial self-diagnosis. MD information demand and the actual prevalence of different MDs do not travel together: web search volume may mirrors patients’ fears and worries about some particular disorders perceived as more serious than others, or may be driven by release of news about celebrities suffering from MD, “breaking news” or specific mass-media events regarding MD.