Public interests in mental health topics in COVID-19: evidence from Wikipedia searches
Kozminski University | Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University | Medical University of Warsaw
Objective: The aim of the study was to explore community interest in mental health topics during and before the COVID-19 pandemic. Method: We gathered and analysed a large dataset (over 3 billion) of views of 1763 English Wikipedia mental health articles, and their counterparts in nine other language versions of Wikipedia, between the period of January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2020.
Results: The results of this study show that the patterns of Wikipedia searches during the pandemic changed. Interest in articles about insecurities and paraphilias increased. There were more searches for child abuse-related topics. Views for depression decreased.
Discussion: We hypothesise that during the lockdown and enforced video communication, people’s concern about self-image and privacy arose, and the tendency to follow one’s desires online increased. There may be a possible interaction between media coverage and the novelty with the saturation of a given concept in the public discourse. The observations on the online interests of peers may become a sensitive predictor and early sign of arising new phenomena and increase of ongoing public health problems. The results of this study and future in-depth research may contribute to providing preventive programs including screening digital tools, and online apps for early intervention.