Exploring the relationship between macroeconomic conditions and problem drinking as captured by Google searches in the US

Paul Frijters, David Johnston, Grace Lordan, Michael A Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


There is considerable policy interest in the impact of macroeconomic conditions on health-related behaviours and outcomes. This paper sheds new light on this issue by exploring the relationship between macroeconomic conditions and an indicator of problem drinking derived from state-level data on alcoholism-related Google searches conducted in the US over the period 2004?2011. We find the current recessionary period coincided with an almost 20 increase in alcoholism-related searches. Controlling for state and time-effects, a 5 rise in unemployment is followed in the next 12 months by an approximate 15 increase in searches. The use of Internet searches to inform on health-related behaviours and outcomes is in its infancy; but we suggest that the data provides important real-time information for policy-makers and can help to overcome the under-reporting in surveys of sensitive information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61 - 68
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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