New research shows promise about when to disseminate health communication messages for smoking cessation campaigns. The study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, Internal Medicine shows that people are most likely to consider quitting smoking on Mondays. Tobacco use accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Nearly 44 million Americans still smoke.
New Monday Pattern Discovered
The researchers were comprised of a collaborative group from San Diego State University, the Santa Fe Institute, The Monday Campaigns and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They looked at Google searches from 2008 to 2012, in six languages (e.g. English, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish). Their findings revealed a weekly pattern in quit smoking search behaviors—a consistent peak on Mondays.
For searches in English, Monday queries were 145 percent greater when compared to Saturdays, 67 percent greater compared to searches on Friday and 11 percent larger when compared to Wednesday searches. On average, there were 25 percent more searches on Monday, than any other day of the week.
Behavior change theories underlie programmatic decisions for effectively engaging target audiences, and Monday is a good fit for at least two of these theories: Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) and the Health Belief Model (HBM). In the context of SCT, the new research demonstrates that people seem to have more self-efficacy to make the behavior change to consider quitting smoking on Mondays. Additionally, the collective mindset of quitting on Mondays would provide the necessary social supports to quit. According to the Health Belief Model, Mondays can serve as a culturally established “cue to action” to quit and stay quit. In translating these theories into practice, organizations can use Monday to enhance social media efforts, and can craft messages based on the Monday insight of a “fresh start” or “new beginning” to each week. For example, “recommit on Monday, there are 52 chances a year to get back on track”. By combining the timing of Monday with the Monday insight, practitioners can more effectively promote support groups, community events, and other opportunities for quitters to access cessation resources.
What Monday means for Health Communication
The amount of information available online and its accessibility to researchers has led to the emergence of “big data” as a key resource for health communication. For example, tracking Google searches on flu symptoms has helped determine where and how to reach populations with information on flu vaccines (see: flu Google trends).
With the new research about Monday patterns in particular, health communicators now have an insight into the collective conscious of people seeking health information online that they can leverage for pushing out smoking cessation and other public health resources. According to study co-author Morgan Johnson, MPH, “whether it’s scheduling staff hours or buying media time, you are better off reaching people when they’re thinking about their smoking habit, and Monday seems to be an ideal time. Moreover, social support is an important factor in helping people quit smoking; knowing they are not alone when reaching out for information can help them follow- through on their intentions to quit.”
From twitter posts, to planning community-wide events, Monday provides organizations an effective leverage point for communicating health information to a wide variety of audiences in many diverse settings. For tobacco cessation specialists in particular, Monday can be used to focus communications regarding smoking cessation. Individual considerations to quit smoking are occurring in a predictable pattern, and that’s on Mondays.
For more information on the research, visit the JAMA release for the study:
Check out the Mondays Quit Smoking Campaign, all the materials are free:
For more information on government funded big data research:
The beauty of this research, is that it’s open source, and anyone else could do it. Go to Google trends. Try it for yourself!
For more information on Monday health behavior changes:
Emily Oppenheimer ‘13, holds her MS in Health Communication from Tufts University School of Medicine . She’s lived in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Spain, New Mexico, and currently resides in NYC. She’s fascinated by how cultural competence and creative communication can improve health.