Google search data has revealed that weight loss searches have increased in number over time while those on obesity have decreased. The research was carried out by European Association for the Study of Obesity, suggests a normalisation of obesity in society.
Dr Aditya S. Pawar and colleagues studied data of awareness about obesity over the last twelve years worldwide. They used Google Trends which is based on the number of times worldwide the terms 'Obesity', 'Weight loss 'and 'Obese' were searched for using Google between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2017.
The program assigns a reference value of 100 for the point of maximum popularity among the search terms, and provides relative monthly scores for all terms, which were termed relative interest scores (RIS).
The results found that the for the search term 'obesity', the mean RIS consistently decreased with each quartile. While the search term 'weight loss' RIS consistently increased with time.
The term 'weight loss' appeared to be especially popular during the month of January and its median RIS for January (n=12months) as compared to other months (n=122 months) was higher during the entire study period (88 vs 72), a result which was statistically significant. The RIS for term 'obese' did not change significantly over the study period.
Dr Pawar concluded, "Despite an increase in the prevalence of obesity, its popularity on the internet continues to decrease with time as reflected by the RIS score, which may suggest 'normalisation' of obesity in our society. Reassuringly however, the frequency of the search term 'weight loss' has increased significantly overtime, with significant interest in January every year."
The study was presented at European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, Austria.