Jeremy Wagstaff has done a fascinating (if morbid) little analysis using Google Trends to track the popularity of the search phrase "commit suicide painlessly."
Perhaps not too surprisingly, it appears to track the economy. That is, it was relatively flat for a while, but spiked in October 2008 through March 2009 -- though, it's since come back down. As he notes, this isn't exactly a small blip -- it was over an extended period of time. He digs down a bit in the data, which suggests that while the US is a lot less suicidal these days, things are still a bit on edge over in the UK (you guys doing ok?). What would be interesting now would be to correlate that data with actual suicides
. Oddly, Wagstaff notes that a similar boost is not
seen in just the basic search of "how to commit suicide." That makes me wonder if the "commit suicide painlessly" search is suffering from a small sample size problem. Still, it's yet another fun little "economic indicator" found from public data, similar to the post we had recently on analyzing job trends via Facebook status
. While the data might not mean much yet, the fact that there is so much more data so easily accessible is really powerful.