With the UK under advice to stay at home, we thought it would be interesting to look at a range of regional search volumes on Google, to see what people in different cities might be thinking about the most.

Looking at Search Interest Value data from Google Trends, for the 90 day period leading up to 24th April 2020, we found that:

  1. Bournemouth ranked highest for the search term ‘Coronavirus’ 
  2. Brighton ranked highest for the term ‘Pub’, with London in second place
  3. Hull ranked highest for ‘Takeaway’
  4. And Sunderland ranked highest for ‘Holiday’.

At the other end of the scale:

  1. Edinburgh had the lowest search interest for ‘Coronavirus'
  2. Belfast had the lowest search interest for ‘Pub’
  3. Oxford ranked lowest for ‘Takeaway’
  4. And Cambridge ranked lowest for ‘Holiday’.

The first month of the UK lockdown, announced on the 23rd March, 2020, has been and gone. And although restrictions look set to be eased in the coming weeks, many senior health officials have warned that it may be several months before life returns to normal, following the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

It goes without saying that these restrictions and protection measures are vitally necessary. Without them, coronavirus cases would have multiplied even more exponentially and pushed our health system beyond capacity.

It’s an unprecedented scenario which no doubt most of us wouldn’t have expected to encounter during our lifetimes, and one which everyone handles differently. With the majority of the general public staying at home, many of us will be watching the news religiously for updates and checking for news on our phones. Some of us might be filling our newfound free time by planning what we’re going to do when lockdown restrictions end - be it going on holiday or catching up with friends.  

These unprecedented circumstances got us thinking at Treated.com about how we’ve accepted and responded to self-isolation in groups and as cities. Using data taken from Google Trends, we have tried to speculate what we’re thinking about, missing and doing while in lockdown. 

We also spoke with GP Clinical Lead at Treated.com Dr. Daniel Atkinson, to better understand how the lockdown may be affecting both our physical and mental health.

Which city is most concerned about the coronavirus? 

Using Google Trends, which reports on search term and topic interest over time by city, we were able to determine that the following five cities had searched for the term ‘Coronavirus’ the most (or had the highest search interest value), which could indicate greater concern: 

  1. Bournemouth 
  2. Leicester 
  3. Cambridge 
  4. Birmingham 
  5. Brighton 

Using the same method, the following five cities had the lowest search interest value for the term ‘coronavirus’  - Nottingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, London and Edinburgh (Edinburgh had the lowest overall). 

“The coronavirus is something which should rightly concern us”, comments GP clinical lead at Treated.com Dr. Daniel Atkinson. “We’ve encountered a number of public health emergencies in recent decades, but none have proven as globally disruptive or devastating as COVID-19. 

This is down to a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s highly infectious making spread more likely. It’s also making lots of people seriously ill, and people are dying in much higher numbers than with other infectious diseases such as influenza. There are also lots of questions surrounding immunity, and, of course, when we will have a vaccine that is widely available.

Just to echo what many are already saying, the only real choice we have presently is self-isolation and quarantine in order to slow the virus down as much as possible until a vaccine is found. It is vital we all follow the advice from our governments and global health bodies, certainly for the foreseeable future.

Of course, there must also be a lot of emphasis on our ability as nations to test, trace and isolate the virus.”

Treated.com offers a private coronavirus testing service. We currently offer two types of test: 

  1. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus test, which screens patients for current viral infection;
  2. The antibody coronavirus test, which screens patients for previous viral infection.

Which city misses the pub the most? 

Using the same method to determine concern surrounding the coronavirus, we were also able to get an idea of which UK cities could perhaps be missing socialising the most, going from their search term interest. We chose the keyword ‘Pub’ to gauge this, because these are considered a pillar of social life in many communities up and down the country. 

The cities searching for the term ‘Pub’ the most were as follows: 

  1. Brighton
  2. London 
  3. Norwich 
  4. Bristol
  5. York 

We were also able to determine that the cities who were searching for the keyword ‘Pub’ the least were as follows: Sunderland, Manchester, Leicester, Glasgow and Belfast, with Belfast having the lowest search interest value of all cities considered. 

“It’s difficult to imagine the UK without its pubs,” comments Dr. Atkinson, “yet that’s exactly what people who have frequented them for several years are temporarily living through at the moment.

Many of us are likely missing our pubs and restaurants, because they are typically places of social interaction between friends and family. 

However, for some people the very absence of a pub might encourage them to go out and purchase alcohol, simply because they miss the ability to choose whether they want to go out, and may even lead to consumption levels higher than before the lockdown. It’s important we don’t fall victim to this. 

So let’s try to keep in mind the UK guidelines surrounding ‘low-risk’ drinking’ which are to consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. If you do drink 14 units a week, make sure you spread them out across the week with ‘sober’ days in between. And don’t ‘save up’ your units and consume them all on one particular day or night.”

Interestingly, we noticed that many of the searches for ‘pub’ were part of a longer-tailed search for ‘pub quiz’. While we don’t think people are searching for pub quizzes to go to locally, we do think that a lot of people are looking for pub quizzes to participate in online, remotely with friends. And this indicates a high level of adjustment in order to maintain social bonds.

“It’s quite reassuring really to think that, given the circumstances, many of us are seeking out ways to socialise responsibly by engaging in remote activities, such as quizzes. Faced with such adversity, it’s as important now as it has ever been to keep in touch with friends and maintain relationships, even though we might not be able to do so in person. And online ‘pub quizzes’ are a great way to do this.”

Which city is thinking about ordering a takeaway the most? 

Using Google Trends, we were able to determine that the following cities had the highest search interest value for the keyword search term ‘Takeaway’, with Hull having the highest interest: 

  1. Hull 
  2. Sunderland 
  3. Nottingham 
  4. Manchester 
  5. Leeds

The cities that had the lowest search interest value for ‘Takeaway’ were as follows: Birmingham, Belfast, London, Cambridge, Oxford. (Oxford having the lowest interest value). 

“We’re all spending a lot more time indoors and a lot less time socialising,” comments Dr. Atkinson, “so a lot of us will be thinking about food more, because it might be the new highlight of our day. Some people will be taking to the kitchen more to cook from scratch. This should hopefully be a positive, as cooking from home is typically better for us than eating ready-meals or a takeaway. 

However, it’s important that we don’t let our newfound sense of boredom lead to an uptake in the amounts of takeaways we eat, as this could have health implications further down the line - particularly if we continuously eat takeaways for a prolonged period of time.” 

Which city is thinking about its next holiday? 

Using the same methodology, we determined that the cities searching for the keyword ‘Holiday’ the most, were as follows: 

  1. Sunderland 
  2. Hull 
  3. Norwich 
  4. Plymouth 
  5. Birmingham 

The cities which had searched for the same keyword the least, were as follows: Nottingham, Belfast, Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge. (Cambridge having the lowest interest value). 

“It’s unlikely that any of us will be going abroad on holiday for quite some time.” comments Dr. Atkinson. “But if you’re able to, there’s no harm in doing some research now and thinking about where you want to go when restrictions are eventually lifted.

We’re all going through a difficult time at the moment, and our primary focus should be on remaining healthy. Having an end goal of a holiday in mind though can help to motivate us and keep us positive, and for those who usually plan a holiday last minute, at least now they’ve got more time to plan and look at places they’d like to visit. 

Holidays can be a great time to relax and unwind from the stresses of regular life, and can be of benefit to mental health. 

Furthermore, research shows that holidays can represent an excellent opportunity to quit certain habits, such as smoking or drinking, because the changed environment lends itself to the breaking of an addiction, which are usually facilitated through the repetition of our daily routine.” 

Is the lockdown making us unhealthier, both mentally and physically? 

“This is a big question which doesn’t have a straightforward answer.” comments Dr. Atkinson. “It’s likely that we’ll be talking about and studying the true impact of the pandemic and everything around it on our health for many years to come. 

Again, we are in completely unchartered waters. It’s thought that we’re quite some distance from complete normality, and it’s too early to say how this may affect us on a mass, behavioural scale. From what I’m hearing from colleagues and those I consult with, in the majority of instances, we’re all coping and managing as best we can - which is encouraging. 

There are a lot of factors that can shape our psychological outlook. So it’s important, wherever possible, to keep in touch with family and friends remotely. If you’re fatigued with the situation or having a bad day, a conversation online with a friend can often make a world of difference.  

Physically - it’s crucial that in absence of things like gyms and our daily commutes, we remain active and do not fall into the trap of living sedentary lifestyles. Not only will exercise benefit us physically, but mentally too. 

My final piece of advice would simply be for people to ‘take it easy’ on themselves. For many of us who have had our studies halted, been furloughed, lost jobs or simply being at home more means we all have more time on our hands - but it’s okay if you’re struggling to fill that spare time with productive pursuits. Don’t apply too much pressure on yourself.

We’re all coping and managing this new normal in different ways. As long as you’re keeping your health and wellbeing in mind, staying at home and sticking to the social distancing guidance, just do what works best for you.”