An analysis of weekly Google searches spanning more than seven years reveals health-related searches occur most often on Monday, researchers from multiple universities report in a new study to be published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Like a New Year's resolution to lose weight or quit smoking, people tend to view Monday as a fresh beginning — the only difference being that now they have 52 chances, not just one. The findings echo prior research that shows doctors’ appointments are most commonly made on Mondays, in addition to attempts at quitting smoking and beginning exercise regimens. Researchers believe the data could offer concrete evidence that public health spending would be more effective when applied during times people are most open to listen.
"Many illnesses have a weekly clock with spikes early in the week," said lead author John W. Ayers, of San Diego State University, in a statement. "This research indicates that a similar rhythm exists for positive health behaviors, motivating a new research agenda to understand why this pattern exists and how such a pattern can be utilized to improve the public's health."
A number of factors could be influencing the spike in health-related choices on Monday, Ayers and his team allege. For one, the weekend is a time to decompress from the stressors of tight budgeting and dieting during the work week. Mondays often act as a natural reset button, for people to “get back on track with their health regimens,” said Dr. Joanna Cohen, co-author from Johns Hopkins University. In addition, people tend to do the majority of their grocery shopping over the weekend, particularly on Sunday. Monday is the first full day many people’s kitchens are totally stocked with food.
Analyzing the Data
To arrive at these conclusions, the team first had to collect their data. Multiple researchers, including epidemiologists, data analysts, and public health experts, collected information on weekly Google searches that involved some form of the words “health” and “healthy” between 2005 and 2012.
They found that, on average, searches were 30 percent more likely to contain these keywords on Monday than on any other day of the week. Search volumes also declined as the week went on, as Monday and Tuesday had three percent more searches than Wednesday, 15 percent greater than Thursday, 49 percent greater than Friday, 80 percent greater than Saturday, and 29 percent greater than Sunday. "It's interesting to see such a consistent and similar rhythm emerging from search data," remarked co-author Benjamin Althouse, Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.
The data’s potential may be far-reaching depending on how it’s implemented, the researchers assert. For example, the findings have led to the development of Monday Campaigns, a joint effort from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications to get people mentally associating Monday with health.
"Friday is payday. Saturday is play day. Sunday is pray day. We're trying to make Monday the 'all health breaks loose' day," Sid Lerner, a former advertising executive who founded the Monday Campaigns, told The Atlantic. So far, its most successful measure has been Meatless Monday, a program designed to restrict Americans’ red meat consumption, in order to cut colon cancer and heart disease risks.
Whether Monday-based health initiatives gain traction nationally depends entirely on people buying into the behaviors they already adopt, argues Monday Campaigns’ Morgan Johnson. "The challenge we face in public health is to help people sustain healthy behaviors over time,” Johnson said. “Since Monday comes around every seven days when people are 'open to buy' health, it can be used as a cue to help create healthy habits for life."