Using Google Trends, the researchers monitored the daily fraction of all internet searches that included the terms “anxiety “or “panic” in combination with “attack” (including panic attack, signs of anxiety attack, anxiety attack symptoms) that originated from the United States from January 1, 2004, through May 4, 2020.
“All acute anxiety queries were cumulatively 11% (95% CI, 7%-14%) higher than expected for the 58-day period that started when President Trump first declared a national emergency (March 13, 2020) and ended with the last available date of data (May 9, 2020),” the researchers wrote. “This spike was a new all-time high for acute anxiety searches. In absolute terms this translates to approximately 375,000 more searches than expected for a total of 3.4 million searches.”
The largest increase in acute anxiety queries occurred March 28, 2020, with 52% more queries than expected during normal times. On that date, the U.S. passed 2,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Two other spikes occurred March 16, when social distancing guidelines were first put in place, and March 29, when those guidelines were extended.
Increases were also seen April 3, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta recommended wearing face masks, and April 11, when the U.S. passed Italy for most deaths from COVID-19.
The group found queries began to return to normal levels on April 15 and have remained at expected levels, “perhaps because Americans have become more resilient to the societal fallout from COVID-19 or because they had already received whatever benefit they could from searching the internet,” they wrote.