Health care social media was dominated by two very different stories in 2014. On one hand videos of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge invaded our feeds and streams for what seemed like a very long summer, before more somber videos of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa started hitting our screens.
These health related stories were two of the top 10 trending searches on Google in the U.S. in 2014:
- Robin Williams
- World Cup
- Malaysia Airlines
- Flappy Bird
- ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Ebola Outbreak leads to 5th Highest Google Spike of 2014
According to Google, searches for ‘Ebola’ were 76 times higher in October than they were in March when the first reports started to appear of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, in West Africa. It was only when the disease started to cross borders into ‘first world’ countries with isolated cases in Spain and the U.S. that the severity of the situation began to sink in.
One interesting fact from Google is that three of the top ten searches for ‘ebola’ were actually in Japanese, even though the country had no reported contact with the virus! And in October there were 10 times more searches for the movie “Outbreak” than at any time other in the last ten years. In the 1995 movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman, extreme measures are necessary to contain an epidemic of a deadly airborne virus.
A Bucket of Cold Hard Facts
ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – was searched for more in 2014 than in the entire last decade combined. There is no doubt that the Ice Bucket Challenge captured the imagination of the world in July and August. ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder that damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS every year in the U.S., according to the ALS Association.
In case you missed it (were you studying too hard over the summer?) the campaign encouraged us to make a video of ourselves pouring a bucket of icy cold water over our heads, make a donation and then nominate friends to do the same within 24 hours. Celebrities from Bill Gates to Charlie Sheen jumped on the bandwagon, and public awareness of ALS soared. Over 90 million search results on Google for ‘ice bucket challenge’ turned a little-known disorder into a global conversation and raised more than $100M for the ALS Association and related charities.
More Conversations About Depression
Actor and comedian Robin Williams had the greatest increase in search (on Google) of any person last year, after his untimely death last August. But in addition to searches for his movies like “Mrs. Doubtfire,” his death also led to a new discussion and openness about a very serious condition that had almost been kept in the shadows – depression.
His suicide prompted millions of people to seek out information about depression and mental health. Searches for the word ‘depression’ multiplied by three times. ‘Depression symptoms’ and ‘depression test’ were also heavily searched. The hope is that his tragic death may have, in some way, helped others live.