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The results are in: This past year, people wanted to get better.
That’s what is clear from Google’s annual “Year in Search” list, released Wednesday. Each year, the tech company analyzes which search terms saw the highest spike over the course of the last year.
Those questions and phrases that saw unusually high growth in searches can show the company what information needs to be made more accessible and teaches us a little more about what we all experienced together.
After people spent 2020 trying to survive and understand the global pandemic, this year’s results told a story of a world looking to rebuild physically, emotionally and socially.
“People are coming to Google looking for ways to heal,” said Hema Budaraju, senior director of product, health and search social impact at Google. “It’s a good sign of our resilient spirit and the globe wanting to come back and get better.”
For health-focused searches, vaccinations, well-being and helping others saw the biggest surges over the past year.
If 2020 was about testing, 2021 has been about vaccination.
A year of pandemic life left many people with more questions as the situation around the globe evolved from managing the virus to protecting against it with vaccines.
“Over the past couple of years, the topic in most people’s heads and hearts are Covid,” Budaraju said.
“Is the coronavirus vaccine approved,” “is the Covid vaccine safe,” “how does the coronavirus vaccine work” and “how many coronavirus vaccines are there” are just some of the most asked questions people were grappling with this year.
In response, Google has tried to provide answers with information panels and resources to direct people to the places they can get themselves and their children vaccinated, Budaraju said.
“Providing locally relevant, timeless and authoritative information is paramount. This is our responsibility, and we are proud of doing the best that Google can,” Budaraju said. “We will continue our efforts to make sure the world bounces back.”
In 2021, “why do I feel sad?” was searched more than it ever was before and saw a 10% increase from 2020, according to Google’s internal metrics.
After the shift from keeping a watchful eye on Covid-19 to protecting against it, many people were left with addressing the feelings that come out of it.
Topics like anxiety, stress, grief and therapy reached an all-time high this year, Budaraju said.
Many of the physical components that go along with moving ahead from a difficult year also captured people’s attention.
“How to lower blood pressure,” “why am I always tired,” and “how many calories should I eat” were among the search terms that topped the health charts in growth of Google searches over the last year.
There were also a lot of questions about hiccups, but there is no good explanation for that one.
In a win for humanity, the Google searches this year also described a world that was interested in helping one another.
Along with searches about how to help your own mental health were phrases like “how to help a friend” and “how to help someone having a panic attack.”
India suffered a particularly bad outbreak of Covid-19 this year, and in other parts of the world, people were asking Google how they could help.
The takeaway, Budaraju said, is that this year humanity had “more awareness of the need to take care of themselves and their loved ones.”