The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic abruptly changed the life of European citizens. Starting from the first recorded EU hotbed in Northern Italy on February 20th, the virus rapidly spread across several EU countries. In this context, Google searches by EU citizens provide timely insights about Europeans’ concerns. As about 90% of EU-27 households have home internet access and the number of internet-connected mobile devices is rapidly increasing, Google searches provide a rather detailed picture of the concerns of the whole EU population.
Against this background, the JRC created a set of indicators to track the evolution over time of Europeans’ worries and reactions related to three key domains: health, economy and social isolation. While worries are defined as the instances that might cause difficulties to the EU citizens, reactions include actions and behaviours enacted to cope with the consequences of the pandemic. Each indicator is the result of the aggregation of several topics (groups of keywords queried on Google Search), allowing detailed analyses of different phenomena that are of paramount importance not only in the midst of the pandemic but also in its aftermath.
- Analysing the evolution of EU citizens’ Google searches provides timely insights on their concerns in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
- In the midst of the pandemic, health-related searches increased in the whole EU. Europeans began looking for covid-19 symptoms as well as methods to protect themselves.
- Shortly after, economic-related worries increased, with searches for unemployment benefits and fears of layoffs growing by 35% and 70% respectively from the pre-pandemic period. As EU citizens’ economic worries peaked, the SURE programme was adopted by the European Commission (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency).
- At the same time, EU citizens began learning how to cope with the lockdown measures imposed in many EU countries. Starting in March, they began searching for tools to cope with smart working and the prolonged social isolation.
- Latest trends show that, while countries are preparing to lift lockdown measures, worries related to physical health have been overtaken by worries related to mental health. Further, EU citizens are looking into how to take care of themselves (such as doing exercise and improving their nutrition). Searches for expenditure reliefs and state aids remain as high as during the peak of the pandemic.