MediclResearch.com Interview with:
John W. Ayers, PhD, MA
Graduate School of Public Health
San Diego State University, San Diego, California
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Ayers: Our study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine was the first to describe daily rhythms in health behaviors.
Because trends in quitting contemplations are usually described annually using telephone surveys, we had to use a novel data source that could capture daily patterns. By monitoring aggregate Internet search queries we can see precisely what the population is thinking about by the content of their queries and that the population is engaged in the issue by searching. We therefore analyzed daily search volumes for smoking cessation queries (e.g., “quit smoking”) in six languages across the entire globe.
We found that people search about quitting smoking more often early in the week, with the highest query volumes on Mondays, using a daily measure representing the proportion of quit smoking searches to all searches. This pattern was consistent across all six languages, suggesting a global predisposition to thinking about quitting smoking early in the week, particularly on Mondays.
English searches, for example, showed Monday query volumes were 11 percent greater than on Wednesdays, 67 percent greater than on Fridays, and 145 percent greater than on Saturdays. In total for all six languages, Monday query volumes were 25 percent higher than the combined mean number of searches for Tuesday through Sunday.
Practically these findings are very meaningful. For example, in English alone there are about 150,000 more quit smoking queries on Monday than on a typical day; about 8,000,000 over an entire year.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Ayers: Popular belief has been that the decision to quit smoking is unpredictable with one recently published study from BMJ’s Tobacco Control calling the decision to quit “chaotic.” By taking a bird’s-eye view of Google searches, however, we find anything but chaos. Instead, Google search data reveal interest in quitting is part of a larger collective pattern of behavior dependent on the day of the week.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Ayers: Our first message is for smokers: If you’re a smoker, just remember: quit this Monday. Everyone else is doing it.
For clinicians and health advocates: We believe our results provide important evidence that can improve the delivery of existing anti-smoking measures. Whether it’s scheduling staff hours or buying media time, you are better off reaching people when they’re thinking about their smoking habit, and early in the week, especially Monday, seems to be an ideal time.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Ayers: Clearly, these results are not intended to be definitive as more research is needed, especially for understanding the mechanisms linking the days of the week with search patterns. For instance, just what is it about the days of the week and how ubiquitous are these patterns?
However, intuition suggests that these results are reflective of an important link between the days of the week and population health that goes well beyond our previous understanding.
Circaseptan (Weekly) Rhythms in Smoking Cessation Considerations
John W. Ayers, PhD, MA; Benjamin M. Althouse, ScM, PhD; Morgan Johnson, MPH; Joanna E. Cohen, MHSc, PhD
JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 28, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.11933