Life Tech Afraid? Paranoid? Google knows what terrifies us

Afraid? Paranoid? Google knows what terrifies us

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Australia is in the midst of the greatest housing bubble ever recorded and there is overwhelming evidence to prove it, experts say.

Latest figures show Australian house prices have increased by between 527 per cent and 795 per cent across every state in the past 20 years.

In June, Treasury secretary John Fraser told Parliament that Sydney and parts of Melbourne were “unequivocally” in a housing bubble.

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But there is another, less official way of proving that fears of a housing bubble are causing Australians to worry – we are searching for it like crazy on Google.

Google Trends is a tool for indexing the volume of certain keyword searches at any point in time, compared to its highest point, and its figures show a dramatic rise in Australians searching the term “housing bubble”. It’s one of many revelations in the Google data what we are searching for.

In the United States in 2005, there was a similar spike in Google searches about a dangerous housing bubble as debate raged around an impending housing bust. The trend rocketed in the US before the GFC halted lending and home prices went into freefall.

Here’s the scary bit. Australians in Victoria and New South Wales are searching ‘housing bubble’ at a higher rate than what Americans were.

While Australians are very concerned about the value of their home, there are other, larger concerns. Cancer symptoms, Islamic State and shark attacks are also hot search topics.

The fears we Google most

To get an idea of what scares and satisfies Australians the most, we used Google Trends to compare data for searches of our biggest fears and leisure activities. The charts below illustrate what scared us and entertained us most between July 5 and 11, 2015. Chart showing top Google searches in Australia Chart showing data about deaths in Australia Chart showing top Google searches in Australia

Global warming vs terrorism

Last January, Barack Obama declared: “The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

In Australia Tony Abbott is cutting renewable energy initiatives and focusing more on terrorism:

“As far as the Daesh death cult is concerned, they’re coming after us,” he said.

While Australians might be frightened by both threats, Google Trends shows how interest has ebbed and flowed in how important they are to us.  

Domestic violence vs ice epidemic

Even before Rosie Batty became Australian of the Year in 2015, domestic violence in our country had been receiving increasing media attention.

So, too, has the drug ice. Four Corners aired a documentary into its effect in rural Victoria and soon after, Mr Abbott announced an ice task force.

However it seems we’re searching for more answers on domestic violence.

Cancer vs heart attack

We’re a lot more scared of cancer than we are of having a heart attack, if search engine interest is anything to go by. In Australia in 2012, more than 43,000 people died from cancer while 43,603 died from cardiovascular disease in 2013.

ISIS vs The Taliban

Australians are historically far more interested in ISIS, however not right now. Google shows that searches for ISIS were highest in August to September 2014.

Taliban searches peaked in October 2010 when they shot Pakistani school girl Malala Yousafzai.

However the Taliban currently rank higher than ISIS.

Scared of our beach bodies

Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data says that in 2011-12, 13 per cent of Australians over age 15 were on a diet.

That represented 2.3 million Australians.

The paleo diet was voted one of the worst for 2014, but that doesn’t stop Australians fearful of their waist lines researching how it might help.

Self-inflicted pain vs serious illness

Australians aren’t too concerned about AIDS. In fact, we want to know more about cures for a hangover than we do for one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

It does make sense though, because out of 123 countries Australia is ranked 97th in prevalence rate for the disease in adults.

Internet privacy vs torrenting

To download a torrent is to (usually) illegally acquire a file, like music or a movie, via a peer-to-peer file sharing network.

But it can be dangerous because you might be watched by authorities or open up your computer to bugs and viruses.

Despite talk about the legality of torrenting and government storing metadata, it seems people taking precautions to protect their privacy on the internet is a thing of the past.

Land travel vs air travel

Despite peaking for the MH370 disappearance in March 2014 and the AirAsia crash in January 2015, there is more consistent interest in automobile safety than for air travel.  

Air safety searches also rose in June 2014 when MH17 was shot down over Ukraine and for the Germanwings air disaster in March 2015.

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