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Here are 2017’s Top Death-Related Google Searches

A lot of people wanted to know if you can die from herpes.
Photo by Nick Veasey via Getty Images

Welcome back to Post Mortem, our column that explores death and dying but without the euphemisms and other bullshit.

Earlier this month, Google released their annual “Year in Search” report for 2017. The report gives lists of the most searched things in a variety of categories. Like Songs/Lyrics (with "Despacito" taking the top spot) and People (with Matt Lauer at number one).

This being a column about death, I thought it would be fitting to take a peek at Google Trends and make some slightly more morbid lists of my own, with a focus on the United States. Where possible, I then relied on figures from the research tool Google AdWords Keyword Planner to create the rankings since this tool provides raw search counts for each term. Below is what I found.


Please note: this post contains references to suicide. If you are feeling suicidal, visit the website of the National Suicide Prevention Helpline or call toll free 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time. A listing of similar helplines in other countries can be found here.

Specific dead bodies people are looking up

According to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, the most requested corpse picture in America for 2017 was that of the Las Vegas shooter. For the most part, the rest of the list is comprised of celebrities who were killed violently or by their own hand. In the case of Lil Peep the interest was sparked by a fan who tweeted his body in an open casket from the funeral. However, in the case of Paul Walker, the pictures many people are seeking are a hoax. The second most searched for body on the list is basically an urban myth that has been debunked by Snopes.

-Stephen Paddock/Las Vegas shooter (mass murderer, suicide)
-Google Maps/Google Earth dead body (urban legend)
-Aaron Hernandez (incarcerated American football player, apparent suicide)
-ShootaShellz (musician, shot)
-Paul Walker (actor, 2013 auto collision)
-Lil Peep (musician, apparent overdose)
-Yordano Ventura (Baseball player, auto collision)
-Steve Stephens ("Facebook killer," suicide)
-Chester Bennington (musician, suicide)
-Kenneka Jenkins (Chicago teen found dead in a hotel freezer)
-BTY YoungN (musician, shot)

Top searched celebrity causes of death

The presence of many musicians on this list did not surprise me given that musicians seem to generate a lot of online mourning (remember 2016?). In cases where the death seemed more sudden to the general public, searches were higher, which might explain the top four names even though they were probably not as popular overall as some of the names further down. The ranking is also based on data from the Google AdWords Keyword Planner.

-Chris Cornell (musician, suicide)
-Christopher “Big Black” Boykin (TV personality/musician, heart attack)
-Erin Moran (actress, cancer)
-Bill Paxton (actor, stroke)
-George Michael (musician, natural causes)
-Alan Colmes (radio and television host, lymphoma)
-Tom Petty (musician, cardiac arrest)
-Walter Becker (musician, cancer)
-Hugh Hefner (founder of Playboy, cardiac arrest)
-John Heard (actor, heart attack)


"Can you die from…?”

On the one hand, it’s encouraging that enough Americans have internalized major causes of death like cancer or heart disease to the point of apparently not needing to google them to know that they are super dangerous. On the other hand, the number one dubious cause of death that people are worried about is… weed? A possible explanation for this might be that people are high when actually doing the search. Acid is another illicit drug that made the list. The results here are also based entirely on Google Trends since Google AdWords Keyword Planner does not include searches for illegal drugs or certain illnesses. Dying of a broken heart seems to have trended up after an October report of a woman who apparently died of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, which is sometimes referred to as “broken heart syndrome.” Other items like drinking too much water and lack of sleep are perennial curiosities. The American Chemical Society has a helpful video which states that six liters of water is enough to kill a 165 pound human, making its inclusion on this list not actually all that weird.

-Broken heart
-Too much water
-Lack of sleep

“When you die what happens…?”

Personal finance dominates this list according to Google AdWords Keyword Planner. No doubt much of this is people not wanting their heirs to inherit their financial woes.In third place is “what really happens when you die,” indicating that there’s a sentiment out there that someone’s been lying to us about this question. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is followed by searches of people seeking answers in the Bible. The list is rounded out by the smaller subset of folks who are similarly curious about other members of the animal kingdom.

…to your debt (includes credit cards, loans, student loans)
…to your body
…to your soul
What really happens…
…according to the bible
…to your 401k
…in your sleep
…to your brain
…to your social security
…to animals when they die

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