Gun Google searches and suicide

A quick addition to the post the other day about gun searches and their association with Mitt Romney, accidental deaths of young people, and divorce rates: suicide.

The Centers for Disease Control has a tool for mapping fatal injuries. It allows mapping down to the county level, with nice options. Here’s their national map for suicide rates:

If you take the list of state suicide rates over to Google Correlate, the answer is, mostly: Guns. I entered the male and female suicide rates separately, and the total rates combined, and guns searches dominate. That is, the searches that are most common where there are more suicides (age adjusted), and least common where there are fewer suicides, are almost all about guns. Again, I’m not expert on the types of guns and paraphernalia, but this is not (just) about hunting: it includes assault weapons, ak-47s, “armor piercing,” “tactical sling,” etc. The correlations between suicide rates and search frequencies across states are high: between .82 and.90. (The full list is below).

I used age-adjusted rates for all ages and race/ethnic groups from the years 2000-2006.

Off the gun subject, there were some interesting other patterns. Both men’s and women’s suicide rates (which are highly correlated, about .90 across states) were strongly associated with searches for the artist Luis Royo, a Spanish artist who specializes in dark, violent and apocalyptic art. Here’s his homepage:

For women’s suicide rates, there was also a strong correlation with searches for “divorce help” and “divorce paperwork.” That’s interesting because suicide is more common among divorced people:

Further, both men’s and women’s suicide rates were correlated with searches for “war footage.” That’s interesting because of the high rate of suicide among soldiers and veterans:

Given how similar the male and female suicide pattnern is, the difference between searches on the male list and those on the female list is interesting, and reveals how sensitive the Google search data are, with millions of searches to sift through. Anyway, maybe someday search patterns can help with identifying risks or contribute to suicide prevention. (Here are my past posts on suicide.)

Here are the complete lists of search terms correlated with suicide rates for men and women across states, in no particular order (all the correlations are similar), condensed a little with the use of asterisks for repeated terms and plurals:

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