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People do online searches for health information more on Mondays than Saturdays

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The start of a new week, particularly Mondays motivate people more than weekends to do health searches online that they don't want to do on Saturdays. Searches for health topics were 30 percent more frequent at the beginning of the week than on days later in the week, with the lowest average number of searches on Saturday, says a new study, What’s the Healthiest Day? Circaseptan (Weekly) Rhythms in Healthy Considerations , published online April 17, 2014 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. (The study is in a PDF article format.) The latest research shows people are thinking about their health early in the week.

The new study also is known under another title, "Understanding circaseptan rhythms around health behaviors can yield critical public health gains," appearing online April 17, 2014 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds consistent weekly pattern in Google health searches. A new study recently published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine analyzing weekly patterns in health-related Google searches reveals a recurring pattern that could be leveraged to improve public health strategies.

The study analyzing weekly patterns in health-related Google searches reveals a recurring pattern that could be leveraged to improve public health strategies

Investigators analyzed 'healthy' Google searches originating in the US from 2005 to 2012 and found that on average, searches for health topics were 30 percent more frequent at the beginning of the week than on days later in the week. Investigators from San Diego State University, the Santa Fe Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and the Monday Campaigns, analyzed "healthy" Google searches (searches that included the term healthy and were indeed health-related, for example, "healthy diet") originating in the U.S. from 2005 to 2012. They found that on average, searches for health topics were 30 percent more frequent at the beginning of the week than on days later in the week, with the lowest average number of searches on Saturday.

This pattern was consistent year after year, week after week, using a daily measure to represent the proportion of healthy searches to the total number of searches each day.

"Many illnesses have a weekly clock with spikes early in the week," said SDSU's John W. Ayers, lead author of the study, according to the April 18, 2014 news release, New research shows people are thinking about their health early in the week. "This research indicates that a similar rhythm exists for positive health behaviors, motivating a new research agenda to understand why this pattern exists and how such a pattern can be utilized to improve the public's health."

Joanna Cohen, PhD, a co-author of the study and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, added, according to the news release, "We could be seeing this effect because of the perception that Monday is a fresh start, akin to a mini New Year's Day. People tend to indulge in less healthy behaviors on the weekend, so Monday can serve as a 'health reset' to get back on track with their health regimens."

"It's interesting to see such a consistent and similar rhythm emerging from search data," added Benjamin Althouse, according to the news release. Althouse is a study co-author and Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. "These consistent rhythms in healthy searches likely reflect something about our collective mindset, and understanding these rhythms could lead to insights about the nature of health behavior change."

Results showed that search volumes on Monday and Tuesday were three percent greater relative to Wednesday, 15 percent greater than Thursday, 49 percent greater than Friday, 80 percent greater than Saturday, and 29 percent greater than Sunday

The team also examined whether media exposure could be driving this weekly pattern. Co-author Mark Dredze from Johns Hopkins said, according to the news release, "We tested this hypothesis by monitoring the daily frequency of news stories encouraging healthy lifestyles, but those stories actually peaked on Wednesdays and were statistically independent of healthy searches."

According to the published paper, "Understanding circaseptan rhythms around health behaviors can yield critical public health gains," for instance, government-funded health promotion programs spend $76.2 billion annually and their cost-effectiveness can be improved by targeting the population on weekday(s) when more individuals are contemplating health habits."

Mondays appear to leverage people toward healthier behaviors

Morgan Johnson, MPH, from The Monday Campaigns and study co-author, noted that leveraging Monday is a simple, cost-effective way to nudge people towards healthier behavior. "The challenge we face in public health is to help people sustain healthy behaviors over time. Since Monday comes around every seven days when people are 'open to buy' health, it can be used as a cue to help create healthy habits for life."

You also may want to take a look at the news of another study appearing March 4, 2014 online, "New USDA School Meal Standards Positively Impact Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Low-Income Students: Concern from Lawmakers and the Public Regarding Possible Food Waste Unfounded, According to New Data Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine March 4, 2014."

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