Observational Study
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2023. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Methodol. Jan 20, 2023; 13(1): 1-9
Published online Jan 20, 2023. doi: 10.5662/wjm.v13.i1.1
Pandemic and precocious puberty - a Google trends study
Athanasios Tselebis, Lina Zabuliene, Charalampos Milionis, Ioannis Ilias
Athanasios Tselebis, Department of Psychiatry, “Sotiria” General Chest Diseases Hospital, Athens GR-11527, Greece
Lina Zabuliene, Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius University, Vilnius LT-03101, Lithuania
Charalampos Milionis, Ioannis Ilias, Department of Endocrinology, Elena Venizelou General and Maternity Hospital, Athens GR-11521, Greece
Author contributions: All the authors have contributed to the collection of data and the drafting of the manuscript.
Institutional review board statement: The study was based on data readily available on the Internet, the institutional review board statement was not applicable.
Informed consent statement: The study was based on data readily available on the Internet, the informed consent statement was not applicable.
Conflict-of-interest statement: All the authors report no relevant conflicts of interest for this article.
Data sharing statement: All the search data used are available online at: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7152041.
STROBE statement: The authors have read the STROBE Statement-checklist of items, and the manuscript was prepared and revised according to the STROBE Statement-checklist of items.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: https://creativecommons.org/Licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Corresponding author: Ioannis Ilias, MD, PhD, Consultant Physician-Scientist, Department of Endocrinology, Elena Venizelou General and Maternity Hospital, 2, Elena Venizelou Square, Athens GR-11521, Greece. iiliasmd@yahoo.com
Received: October 6, 2022
Peer-review started: October 6, 2022
First decision: November 22, 2022
Revised: November 29, 2022
Accepted: January 9, 2023
Article in press: January 9, 2023
Published online: January 20, 2023
Research background

Recent publications from several countries have reported that more young people (mainly girls) are experiencing precocious puberty (PP)/menarche during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic compared to the past. This variation is attributed to the stress of confinement, lack of exercise, obesity and disturbed sleep patterns. Studies have shown that searches for diseases on the internet also reflect to some extent the epidemiology of these diseases.

Research motivation

A common feature of the relevant papers on the rise of PP, however, is the relatively small number of reported cases. With this study we aimed to estimate, through internet searches for PP, any changes in the epidemiology of PP.

Research objectives

We assessed in Google trends searches for 21 PP-related terms in English internationally, in the years 2017-2021. Additionally, we assessed local searches for selected terms, in English and local languages, in countries where a rise in PP has been reported.

Research methods

Searches were collected in relative search volumes format and analyzed using Kendall’s Tau test, with a statistical significance threshold of P < 0.05.

Research results

Internationally, searches for three PP-related terms showed no noticeable change over the study period, while searches for eight terms showed a decrease. An increase was found over time in searches for nine PP-related terms. Of the 17 searches in English and local languages, in countries where a rise in PP has been reported, 5 showed a significant increase over time.

Research conclusions

Over the study period, more than half of the search terms showed little change or declined. The discrepancy between internet searches for PP and the reported increase in the literature is striking. It would be expected that a true increase in the incidence of PP would also be aptly reflected in Google trends. If our findings are valid, then the literature may have been biased. The known secular trend of decreasing age of puberty may also have played a role.

Research perspectives

The increase in the incidence of PP in the COVID-19 era, which is reported in the medical literature, is not fully reflected in internet searches. This is an evolving issue; hopefully further relevant studies will shed light on it.