Does Saint Nicholas provoke seizures? Hints from Google Trends

Jolien S. van Campen*, Eric van Diessen, Willem M. Otte, Marian Joels, Floor E. Jansen, Kees P. J. Braun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Stress is the most often reported seizure-precipitant in epilepsy. As most evidence for the relation between stress and epilepsy is derived from human self-reports, observational studies including a larger part of the population could provide additional proof. A stressor often reported to increase seizure frequency in children with epilepsy in the Netherlands is the national celebration of Saint Nicholas' eve (December 5) and the weeks before; this is the main period of festivities for children in this country. To study the relation between stress and epilepsy, we analyzed epilepsy information-seeking behavior on the Internet, an indirect measure of seizure frequency, around this national children's celebration.

Methods: Google Trends was used to extract relative search percentages for 'epilepsy' on Google in the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom between 2004 and 2013. Relative search percentages during the Saint Nicholas period were compared with baseline.

Results: Epilepsy searches increased by 14% in the Saint Nicholas period compared with baseline (p <0.001). This effect was not found for searches performed in the same period in the United States or the United Kingdom, countries where this holiday is not celebrated.

Conclusions: The increase in epilepsy information-seeking behavior in the Saint Nicholas period is possibly caused by an increased occurrence of epileptic seizures. This underscores the potential of health information-seeking behavior on the Internet to answer clinically relevant research questions and provides circumstantial evidence for a relation between stress and the occurrence of epileptic seizures. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-134
Number of pages3
JournalEpilepsy & Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Epilepsy
  • Seizures
  • Internet
  • Holidays
  • Stress
  • Search queries

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