Can google trends search inform us about the population response and public health impact of abrupt change in alcohol policy? — a case study from india during the covid-19 pandemic

Abhishek Ghosh, Fazl e-Roub, Narayanan C. Krishnan, Shinjini Choudhury, Aniruddha Basu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

© 2020 Elsevier B.V. Background: Sudden alcohol prohibition in India during the COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to test whether Google Trends data could indicate population responses and the public health impact of alcohol policy. We hypothesized, following prohibition: there would be a significant change in the relative search volumes (RSV) of alcohol-related queries; that temporal analysis of the trends would reflect a public response to policy changes; and that geospatial analysis of RSV would correlate with the prevalence of alcohol use. Methods: Three different search periods were used to test the hypotheses. The search inputs were based on potential public response to alcohol prohibition, as evidenced by the literature, newspaper articles, and consensus. We used RSV as the unit of analysis. Mean RSV of search queries, pre-post implementation of prohibition, were compared. Smoothing of scatter plots examined the temporal association of trends with policy measures. Multiple linear regression tested the relationship of state-wise RSV and alcohol use prevalence. Results: Post-implementation of prohibition, a significant increase in the RSV was observed for searches related to alcohol withdrawal (p<0.001), how to extract alcohol from sanitizer (p = 0.002), alcohol home delivery online (p<0.001), alcohol home delivery (p<0.001), and sleeping pills (p = 0.006). The trends suggested a decrease in general interest in alcohol but increased demand, and a possible connection with changes in policy measures. State-level RSV and alcohol use prevalence did not reveal a significant relationship. Conclusion: Google trend is a potential source of rapid feedback to policymakers about population responses to an abrupt change in alcohol policies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Volume87
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

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