Web Search Query Volume Correlates with Prescription Volumes of Antidepressants and Antipsychotics in the Netherlands and United Kingdom: An Explorative Study

Paul Cornelis Franciscus van Haaren*, Joeri Tijdink, Frank L. Gerritse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background The significant increase in Internet availability has resulted in a rise in search queries on health-related topics. Previous research has demonstrated the potential for analyzing web search query volume for nonpsychotropic prescription drugs, while studies on psychotropic drugs remain scarce. The aims of this study were to expand upon this scarce knowledge by investigating the relationship between web search query volumes and prescription volumes of antidepressants and antipsychotics in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and to gain insight in topics of concern, such as withdrawal symptoms and discontinuation. Methods Data were obtained for the United Kingdom and the Netherlands from January 2010 until January 2021. Prescription volume data for 5 antidepressants (paroxetine, fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram, venlafaxine) and 5 antipsychotics (quetiapine, olanzapine, clozapine, aripiprazole, and risperidone) were obtained. Web search query volumes and data on related search queries of these substances were acquired from Google Trends. Descriptive statistics and Pearson correlation analyses were performed. Results A strong, positive, and statistically significant correlation between web search query volume and prescription volume was observed for most included substances in both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The search queries related to the included antidepressants and antipsychotics indicate important topics of concern for specific substances, such as withdrawal symptoms and discontinuation. Conclusions Web search data from Google Trends could potentially be used as a proxy for prescribing trends of antidepressants and antipsychotics and to gain insight in topics of concern of users of these substances. These findings highlight the importance of providing reliable patient information, particularly regarding adverse effects, withdrawal, and discontinuation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-227
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

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