Is there a weekly pattern for health searches on wikipedia and is the pattern unique to health topics?

Elia Gabarron*, Annie Y S Lau, Rolf Wynn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Online health information-seeking behaviors have been reported to be more common at the beginning of the workweek. This behavior pattern has been interpreted as a kind of "healthy new start" or "fresh start" due to regrets or attempts to compensate for unhealthy behavior or poor choices made during the weekend. However, the observations regarding the most common health information-seeking day were based only on the analyses of users' behaviors with websites on health or on online health-related searches. We wanted to confirm if this pattern could be found in searches of Wikipedia on health-related topics and also if this search pattern was unique to health-related topics or if it could represent a more general pattern of online information searching-which could be of relevance even beyond the health sector. Objective: The aim was to examine the degree to which the search pattern described previously was specific to health-related information seeking or whether similar patterns could be found in other types of information-seeking behavior. Methods: We extracted the number of searches performed on Wikipedia in the Norwegian language for 911 days for the most common sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, human immunodeficiency virus [HIV], and acquired immune deficiency syndrome [AIDS]), other health-related topics (influenza, diabetes, and menopause), and 2 nonhealth-related topics (footballer Lionel Messi and pop singer Justin Bieber). The search dates were classified according to the day of the week and ANOVA tests were used to compare the average number of hits per day of the week. Results: The ANOVA tests showed that the sexually transmitted disease queries had their highest peaks on Tuesdays (P<.001) and the fewest searches on Saturdays. The other health topics also showed a weekly pattern, with the highest peaks early in the week and lower numbers on Saturdays (P<.001). Footballer Lionel Messi had the highest mean number of hits on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, whereas pop singer Justin Bieber had the most hits on Tuesdays. Both these tracked search queries also showed significantly lower numbers on Saturdays (P<.001). Conclusions: Our study supports prior studies finding an increase in health information searching at the beginning of the workweek. However, we also found a similar pattern for 2 randomly chosen nonhealth-related terms, which may suggest that the search pattern is not unique to health-related searches. The results are potentially relevant beyond the field of health and our preliminary findings need to be further explored in future studies involving a broader range of nonhealth-related searches.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere286
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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