Google has become the modern day confessional.
It’s where we go when we’ve just had our heart broken.
It’s who we ask when we think we might not be having enough sex, or eating a sufficient amount of Omega 3.
It’s who we tell about the symptoms we don’t really want to repeat to the doctor.
It answers, dutifully, never smirking or raising an eyebrow. It won’t tell your parents, as long as you carefully clear your browser history.
Author Marian Keyes speaks about her experience of overcoming depression. Post continues below.
But by pouring information into Google, we’ve also transformed it into an all-knowing oracle. What can a website, that receives more than 3.5 billion searches every single day, tell us about ourselves?
Big data scientist, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, has spent more than five years studying our Google searches, which he says is like “a digital truth serum”.
One of the most interesting findings of his research were search trends around the subject of suicide.
Stephens-Davidowitz says there’s an unsurprising correlation between searches for ‘how to commit suicide’ and suicide rates within any given city.
That tells us that people who google those four words are at serious risk.
But what do people search before they type in those terms? And could those searches provide some insight into what people are thinking and feeling before they die by suicide?
“I found the number one category of searches before suicidal search was a health problem,” Stephens-Davidowitz said on the ABC’s Conversations podcast.
The number one health problem that precedes a suicidal search is, as one might guess, depression.
But another, right near the top, is one that Stephens-Davidowitz says “shocked” him.