New research has revealed which aspects of the cost-of-living crisis are worrying Brits the most, as living costs soar and many workers’ real incomes decline.
Given the uncertain economic outlook in the UK over the past year, and for the foreseeable future, it’s perhaps not surprising that so many more people have turned to search engines, like Google, to keep informed about the cost-of-living crisis and potential changes to their essential household bills – heating, fuel, groceries, and mortgages, for example.
Ciphr’s analysis of Google UK data shows there was a 1,590% increase in the number of searches for the term ‘cost of living’ in the year to August 2022, compared to the previous 12 months (up from 26,300 average annual searches to 444,400). The average number of monthly searches in August 2022 alone hit 110,000.
In fact, average monthly searches about the cost of living and related topics – including energy bills, food prices, inflation, interest rates, mortgage rates, petrol prices, tax cuts, and pay rises – all increased in August 2022 (and are likely even higher now).
More people in the UK searched for the terms ‘petrol prices’ and ‘interest rates’ than any other cost-of-living concern in August 2022 (with 135,000 average monthly searches each). While monthly searches for ‘energy bills’ and ‘food prices’ were 814% and 387% higher than they were in August 2021.
People across the UK may share similar concerns when it comes to the cost-of-living crisis, but not everyone is affected equally. Comparing the search data results from 118 of the most populous towns and cities in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, Ciphr was able to chart which locations average the most monthly searches per 10,000 people. Many individuals will just be looking to stay informed. Many thousands of others may be looking for vital advice and support to help them through the cost-of-living crisis.
According to the results, for all keywords combined, Walsall in the West Midlands topped the list, with the most cost-of-living related online searches over the past six months at 213 per 10,000 people. This was followed by Bedford, Dudley, and Stockton-on-Tees.
It’s worth noting that 75% of the top 20 towns and cities (and 70% of the top 50) that conducted the most online searches for information about the cost-of-living crisis between and March and August 2022 are located in the Midlands and Northern England (the top 50 also includes two Scottish towns).
Most (70%) of these 20 towns and cities also have lower than average full-time weekly wages. The UK’s average, according to the latest annual earnings data available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), is £611 (the average hourly rate for full-time workers is £15.65).
Here is the top 10 towns and cities with the largest number of online searches for information about the cost-of-living crisis, ranked from highest to lowest average monthly searches per 10,000 people:
|Town or City||Average monthly searches (per 10,000 people)||Weekly pay (ONS data)|
Search data was also compared to find out which aspects of the cost-of-living crisis (ie which cost-of-living related keywords) were being more frequently searched for now than last year. And looked at which UK towns and cities recorded the largest increases in average monthly searches per 10,000 people (when comparing August 2022 to August 2021).
Who is most concerned about what?
- Cost of living: Bracknell – 15,900% increase in searches per 10,000 people
- Energy bills: Cardiff – 4,700%
- Food prices: London – 586%
- Inflation: Newport – 1,300%
- Interest rates: Cardiff – 2,850%
- Mortgage rates: Newport – 2,500%
- Petrol prices: Newport – 3,800%
- Tax cuts: London – 875%
- Pay rise: Glasgow – 400%
Bracknell in Southeast England recorded a massive 15,900% (per 10,000 people) rise in the number of monthly searches for the term ‘cost of living’ in August 2022, compared to August 2021 – almost double that of any other UK town or city (searches in Leeds and Birmingham were up 9,400% and 8,900% respectively).
Cardiff and Newport also feature prominently in the results. Search interest for ‘energy bills’ and ‘interest rates’ rose by 4,700% and 2,850% per 10,000 people in Cardiff. Newport had the largest increases in online searches for three cost-of-living related terms: ‘inflation’, ‘mortgage rates’, and ‘petrol prices’ – up 1,300%, 2,500%, and 3,800% per 10,000 people respectively.
The findings for the UK’s four nations are also interesting. Searches in Wales for the term ‘cost of living’ increased by 10,700% (per 10,000 people) in August 2022, compared to August 2021. During the same period, searches by people living in Scotland and England were up 5,686% and 5,556% respectively, and people in Northern Ireland increased their ‘cost of living’ searches by 2,500%.
Commenting on the results, Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says: “It is an incredibly unnerving time for employees and employers across the country.
“Employees are understandably concerned about the impact of the rising cost of living, and for many that doesn’t only mean a reduction in their disposable income, but an impact on their ability to continue to pay the bills. This can cause a huge amount of stress and anxiety, which can in turn impact employees’ health and performance.
“Employers, on the other hand, have a tricky balancing act to achieve, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t high on most organisations’ people agenda.
“On one hand, failing to recognise and respond to the impact the increasing cost of living is having on employees – whether it be through increased pay or bonuses, financial wellbeing support, development opportunities, creative benefits, or other means – could result in employers seeing their staff turnover increase as employees seek work elsewhere for more money.
“On the other hand, employers are also in a position where they are seeing their costs increase and possibly a downturn in revenue as customers become more cautious, therefore they will also be considering how best to protect their organisations’ financial health and, importantly, their employees’ jobs.”