Introduction Alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK, and is a major cause of preventable morbidity and mortality globally. Public health campaigns that aim to encourage people to reduce their alcohol consumption are typically launched in January, such as Public Health England’s Dry January campaign. We aimed to use publicly available data on the volume and temporal trends of web searches to investigate whether January is the most appropriate month to launch alcohol-related health campaigns in the UK and internationally.
Method We used Google Trends to analyse the volume and temporal trends of the use of the search term “alcohol” entered into Google over the last 5 years from 19/02/2012 to 12/02/2017. We also used synonyms of alcohol including “booze” and “drinking”. The volume of search activity was measured as a percentage of the peak popularity for a given region and time. We also examined whether there was a significant change in this search activity when the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) Low Risk Drinking Guidelines were published for consultation on 8thJan 2016.
Results Google Trends showed regular and recurring annual peaks in web searches for “alcohol”, both in the UK and worldwide, starting at the beginning of December and peaking during Christmas and New Year’s Day (Figure 1). This search activity then fell back to baseline levels within the first two weeks of January. Similar trends were seen when using synonyms of alcohol. Search activity for “alcohol” increased in the UK but this trend was less marked worldwide. There was also a peak in search activity for the term ‘alcohol’ following the publication of the CMO consultation on low risk drinking on the 8th of January 2016, which was similar in intensity to the December peak but which decayed rapidly to baseline levels within 48 hours.
Conclusion There is a regular annual peak in online searches for information about alcohol in December, a pattern that is seen both in the UK and globally. This potentially represents the optimal time for the implementation of national online campaigns to reduce alcohol misuse in the UK and worldwide. There may be additional benefit in disseminating the CMOs’ low risk drinking guidelines and other alcohol-related health campaigns throughout December when online interest in alcohol is at peak levels and relatively more sustained.
UK Chief Medical Officers’ Alcohol Guidelines Review: Summary of the proposed new guidelines. January 2016
ReferencesFigure 1 Web searches for the term “alcohol” in the Google search engine over the previous 5 years in the UK and worldwide (volume of search activity is expressed as a percentage of the peak popularity for a given region and time
Disclosure of Interest None Declared
- public health
- time series