Combining search data and demographics to better understand the suicide issue in India: a new observational study

India is home to 20% of the world's suicide deaths, but official statistics are not sufficient to understand the magnitude of the problem, with the suicide rate likely underreported due to data and cultural issues. A new study out in the Journal of Medical Research, co-authored by ISI Foundation Scientific Director Ciro Cattuto and researchers Daniela Paolotti, Michele Tizzoni and Kyriaki Kalimeri, combined official statistics with data generated through online search queries to get a more accurate picture of the suicide issue in the Asian country.

Scientists used both search data and demographics to build two different models. Then, they developed a procedure for outlier rejection that served to single out states where the suicide rates have substantially different correlations with both demographic factors and query rates.
Results suggest that building on this work and drawing upon cross-sector data, including but not limited to search queries, further studies can be conducted aimed at increasing the understanding of the drivers of suicide in India, especially among young people (the majority of internet users in India coincides with the age group most at risk for suicides, 15-29 years). These models may also help to understand how those drivers differ across regions, and how those findings can inform suicide prevention efforts in the country going forward. The work is the result of a Data Collaborative activity with GovLab, UNICEF and Microsoft Research.

“How Search Engine Data Enhance the Understanding of Determinants of Suicide in India and Inform Prevention: Observational Study”, Natalia Adler, Ciro Cattuto, Kyriaki Kalimeri, Daniela Paolotti, Michele Tizzoni, Stefaan Verhulst, Elad Yom-Tov, Andrew Young. JMIR – Journal of Medical Research, 4th January 2019. Link