With the exception of Christmastime, today is the happiest day of year, at least according to Google’s search metrics which analyze tens of millions of queries for phrases that include the word “depression” (but exclude phrases like “The Great Depression”). “Not every health-related search using ‘depression’ is a sign that someone is depressed, and not everyone who is depressed queries Google,” said Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who recently received a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard and currently interns at Google. “But thanks to the incredibly large sample size, meaningful patterns emerge.”
What’s the Big Idea?
The strongest determiners of depression, according to online search patterns, appear to be employment rates and climate, with cold temperatures causing more misery than anything, barring unemployment. “I believe we are about to enter a golden age of disease research,” said Stephens-Davidowitz. “Many of the biggest developments will come from the analysis of big data, not from traditional experiments that survey a relatively small number of people.” The data also reveal an interesting fact about depression medication: anti-depressant pills work about 20 percent of the time while moves to a warmer climate lowers the probability of depression by 40 percent.