IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

COVID-19, Lockdowns and Well-Being: Evidence from Google Trends


  • Brodeur, Abel
  • Clark, Andrew E.
  • Fleche, Sarah
  • Powdthavee, Nattavudh


The COVID-19 pandemic has led many governments to implement lockdowns. While lockdowns may help to contain the spread of the virus, they may result in substantial damage to population well-being. We use Google Trends data to test whether the lockdowns implemented in Europe and America led to changes in well-being related topic search terms. Using differences-in-differences and a regression discontinuity design to evaluate the causal effects of lockdown, we find a substantial increase in the search intensity for boredom in Europe and the US. We also found a significant increase in searches for loneliness, worry and sadness, while searches for stress, suicide and divorce on the contrary fell. Our results suggest that people's mental health may have been severely affected by the lockdown.

Suggested Citation

  • Brodeur, Abel & Clark, Andrew E. & Fleche, Sarah & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2020. "COVID-19, Lockdowns and Well-Being: Evidence from Google Trends," GLO Discussion Paper Series 552, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:552

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nikolaos Askitas & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2009. "Google Econometrics and Unemployment Forecasting," Applied Economics Quarterly (formerly: Konjunkturpolitik), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 55(2), pages 107-120.
    2. Scott R. Baker & Andrey Fradkin, 2017. "The Impact of Unemployment Insurance on Job Search: Evidence from Google Search Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 99(5), pages 756-768, December.
    3. Òscar Jordà & Sanjay R. Singh & Alan M. Taylor, 2020. "Longer-Run Economic Consequences of Pandemics," Working Paper Series 2020-09, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    4. Hamermesh, Daniel S., 2020. "Lockdowns, Loneliness and Life Satisfaction," IZA Discussion Papers 13140, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Thiemo Fetzer & Lukas Hensel & Johannes Hermle & Christopher Roth, 2020. "Coronavirus Perceptions And Economic Anxiety," Papers 2003.03848,, revised Jul 2020.
    6. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-659, May.
    7. James H. Stock, 2020. "Data Gaps and the Policy Response to the Novel Coronavirus," NBER Working Papers 26902, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. David Berger & Kyle Herkenhoff & Simon Mongey, 2020. "An SEIR Infectious Disease Model with Testing and Conditional Quarantine," Working Papers 2020-017, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    9. Layard, Richard & Clark, Andrew E. & De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel & Krekel, Christian & Fancourt, Daisy & Hey, Nancy & O'Donnell, Gus, 2020. "When to release the lockdown: a wellbeing framework for analysing costs and benefits," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 104276, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    10. Fang, Hanming & Wang, Long & Yang, Yang, 2020. "Human mobility restrictions and the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
    11. Stefano Ramelli & Alexander F. Wagner, 2020. "Feverish Stock Price Reactions to COVID-19," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 20-12, Swiss Finance Institute.
    12. Guglielmo Briscese & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis & Mirco Tonin, 2020. "Expectations, reference points, and compliance with COVID-19 social distancing measures," NBER Working Papers 26916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Titan Alon & Matthias Doepke & Jane Olmstead-Rumsey & Michèle Tertilt, 2020. "The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2020_163, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    14. Béland, Louis-Philippe & Brodeur, Abel & Wright, Taylor, 2020. "The Short-Term Economic Consequences of COVID-19: Exposure to Disease, Remote Work and Government Response," GLO Discussion Paper Series 524, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    15. Fabian Stephany & Niklas Stoehr & Philipp Darius & Leonie Neuhauser & Ole Teutloff & Fabian Braesemann, 2020. "The CoRisk-Index: A data-mining approach to identify industry-specific risk assessments related to COVID-19 in real-time," Papers 2003.12432,, revised Apr 2020.
    16. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2020. "The Case for Releasing the Young from Lockdown: A Briefing Paper for Policymakers," IZA Discussion Papers 13113, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. Verme, Paolo, 2009. "Happiness, freedom and control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 146-161, August.
    18. Hills, Thomas & Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2015. "Historical Analysis of National Subjective Wellbeing Using Millions of Digitized Books," IZA Discussion Papers 9195, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    19. Callum J. Jones & Thomas Philippon & Venky Venkateswaran, 2020. "Optimal Mitigation Policies in a Pandemic: Social Distancing and Working from Home," NBER Working Papers 26984, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Andrew E. Clark & Orla Doyle & Elena Stancanelli, 2017. "The Impact of Terrorism on Well-being: Evidence from the Boston Marathon Bombing," Working Papers 201717, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    21. Briscese, Guglielmo & Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario & Tonin, Mirco, 2020. "Compliance with COVID-19 Social-Distancing Measures in Italy: The Role of Expectations and Duration," IZA Discussion Papers 13092, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    22. Robert Metcalfe & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Paul Dolan, 2011. "Destruction and Distress: Using a Quasi‐Experiment to Show the Effects of the September 11 Attacks on Mental Well‐Being in the United Kingdom," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(550), pages 81-103, February.
    23. Tsai, Alexander C. & Venkataramani, Atheendar S., 2015. "Communal bereavement and resilience in the aftermath of a terrorist event: Evidence from a natural experiment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 155-163.
    24. Brodeur, Abel & Gray, David M. & Islam, Anik & Bhuiyan, Suraiya Jabeen, 2020. "A Literature Review of the Economics of COVID-19," IZA Discussion Papers 13411, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    25. Ramelli, Stefano & Wagner, Alexander F, 2020. "Feverish Stock Price Reactions to COVID-19," CEPR Discussion Papers 14511, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Covid-19 > Health > Distancing and Lockdown > Effect on well-being


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Brodeur, Abel & Grigoryeva, Idaliya & Kattan, Lamis, 2020. "Stay-At-Home Orders, Social Distancing and Trust," IZA Discussion Papers 13234, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Giuntella, Osea & Hyde, Kelly & Saccardo, Silvia & Sadoff, Sally, 2020. "Lifestyle and Mental Health Disruptions during COVID-19," IZA Discussion Papers 13569, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Barnes, Stephen R. & Beland, Louis-Philippe & Huh, Jason & Kim, Dongwoo, 2020. "The Effect of COVID-19 Lockdown on Mobility and Traffic Accidents: Evidence from Louisiana," GLO Discussion Paper Series 616, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    4. Mathias Huebener & Sevrin Waights & C. Katharina Spiess & Nico A. Siegel & Gert G. Wagner, 2021. "Parental well-being in times of Covid-19 in Germany," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 91-122, March.
    5. YAMAMURA, Eiji & Tsutsui, Yoshiro, 2020. "Impact of closing schools on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence using panel data from Japan," MPRA Paper 105023, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Beland, Louis-Philippe & Fakorede, Oluwatobi & Mikola, Derek, 2020. "The Short-Term Effect of COVID-19 on Self-Employed Workers in Canada," GLO Discussion Paper Series 585, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    7. Beland, Louis-Philippe & Brodeur, Abel & Haddad, Joanne & Mikola, Derek, 2020. "Covid-19, Family Stress and Domestic Violence: Remote Work, Isolation and Bargaining Power," GLO Discussion Paper Series 571, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    8. Frijters, Paul & Johnston, David W. & Knott, Rachel & Torgler, Benno, 2021. "Resilience to Disaster: Evidence from Daily Wellbeing Data," IZA Discussion Papers 14220, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Andrew E. Clark & Conchita D'Ambrosio & Anthony Lepinteur, 2020. "The Fall in Income Inequality during COVID-19 in Five European Countries," Working Papers 565, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    10. Kerim Peren Arin & Juan A. Lacomba & Francisco Lagos & Ana I. Moro-Egido & Marcel Thum, 2021. "Socio-Economic Attitudes in the Era of Social Distancing and Lockdowns," CESifo Working Paper Series 8845, CESifo.
    11. Jun, Seung-Pyo & Yoo, Hyoung Sun & Lee, Jae-Seong, 2021. "The impact of the pandemic declaration on public awareness and behavior: Focusing on COVID-19 google searches," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 166(C).
    12. Darmody, Merike & Smyth, Emer & Russell, Helen, 2020. "The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for policy in relation to children and young people: a research review," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number SUSTAT94.
    13. Louis-Philippe Beland & Abel Brodeur & Derek Mikola & Taylor Wright, 2020. "COVID-19, Occupation Tasks and Mental Health in Canada," Carleton Economic Papers 20-07, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised 30 Jun 2020.
    14. Fayaz Farkhad, Bita & Albarracín, Dolores, 2021. "Insights on the implications of COVID-19 mitigation measures for mental health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C).
    15. Ferdi Botha & John P. New & Sonja C. New & David C. Ribar & Nicolás Salamanca, 2021. "Implications of COVID-19 labour market shocks for inequality in financial wellbeing," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 34(2), pages 655-689, April.
    16. Takaku, Reo & Yokoyama, Izumi, 2021. "What the COVID-19 school closure left in its wake: Evidence from a regression discontinuity analysis in Japan," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 195(C).
    17. Brodeur, Abel & Cook, Nikolai & Wright, Taylor, 2021. "On the effects of COVID-19 safer-at-home policies on social distancing, car crashes and pollution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 106(C).
    18. Andrew E. Clark & Huifu Nong & Hongjia Zhu & Rong Zhu, 2020. "Compensating for Academic Loss: Online Learning and Student Performance during the COVID-19 Pandemic," Working Papers halshs-02901505, HAL.
    19. Künn, Steffen & Seel, Christian & Zegners, Dainis, 2020. "Cognitive Performance in the Home Office - Evidence from Professional Chess," Research Memorandum 021, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    20. Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Borra, Cristina & Wang, Chunbei, 2021. "Asian Discrimination in the Coronavirus Era: Implications for Business Formation and Survival," IZA Discussion Papers 14182, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    21. Eiji Yamamura & Yoshiro Tsutsui, 2021. "How does COVID-19 change insurance and vaccine demand? Evidence from short-panel data in Japan," Papers 2101.08922,
    22. Vincenzo Alfano & Salvatore Ercolano & Gaetano Vecchione, 2020. "Religious Attendance and Covid-19. Evidences from Italian Regions," CESifo Working Paper Series 8596, CESifo.
    23. Dang, Hai-Anh & Trinh, Trong-Anh, 2020. "The Beneficial Impacts of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Air Pollution: Evidence from Vietnam," IZA Discussion Papers 13651, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    24. Abay,Kibrom A. & Hirfrfot,Kibrom Tafere & Woldemichael,Andinet, 2020. "Winners and Losers from COVID-19 : Global Evidence from Google Search," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9268, The World Bank.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Brodeur, Abel & Cook, Nikolai & Wright, Taylor, 2021. "On the effects of COVID-19 safer-at-home policies on social distancing, car crashes and pollution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 106(C).
    2. Béland, Louis-Philippe & Brodeur, Abel & Wright, Taylor, 2020. "The Short-Term Economic Consequences of COVID-19: Exposure to Disease, Remote Work and Government Response," GLO Discussion Paper Series 524, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Beland, Louis-Philippe & Brodeur, Abel & Mikola, Derek & Wright, Taylor, 2020. "The short-term Economic Consequences of COVID-19: Occupation Tasks and Mental Health in Canada," GLO Discussion Paper Series 542, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    4. Louis-Philippe Beland & Abel Brodeur & Taylor Wright, 2020. "COVID-19, Stay-at-Home Orders and Employment: Evidence from CPS Data," Carleton Economic Papers 20-04, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised 19 May 2020.
    5. Robert J. R. Elliott & Ingmar Schumacher & Cees Withagen, 2020. "Suggestions for a Covid-19 Post-Pandemic Research Agenda in Environmental Economics," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 76(4), pages 1187-1213, August.
    6. Jesper Akesson & Sam Ashworth-Hayes & Robert Hahn & Robert D. Metcalfe & Itzhak Rasooly, 2020. "Fatalism, Beliefs, and Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic," NBER Working Papers 27245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Durante, Ruben & Guiso, Luigi & Gulino, Giorgio, 2021. "Asocial capital: Civic culture and social distancing during COVID-19," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 194(C).
    8. Christopher Avery & William Bossert & Adam Thomas Clark & Glenn Ellison & Sara Ellison, 2020. "Policy Implications of Models of the Spread of Coronavirus: Perspectives and Opportunities for Economists," CESifo Working Paper Series 8293, CESifo.
    9. Christopher Avery & William Bossert & Adam Clark & Glenn Ellison & Sara Fisher Ellison, 2020. "Policy Implications of Models of the Spread of Coronavirus: Perspectives and Opportunities for Economists," NBER Working Papers 27007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Giorgia Menta, 2021. "Poverty in the COVID-19 Era: Real Time Data Analysis on Five European Countries," Working Papers 568, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    11. Cem Çakmaklı & Selva Demiralp & Ṣebnem Kalemli-Özcan & Sevcan Yesiltas & Muhammed A. Yildirim, 2020. "COVID-19 and Emerging Markets: A SIR Model, Demand Shocks and Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 27191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Heyden, Kim J. & Heyden, Thomas, 2021. "Market reactions to the arrival and containment of COVID-19: An event study," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 38(C).
    13. Laura Alfaro & Anusha Chari & Andrew N. Greenland & Peter K. Schott, 2020. "Aggregate and Firm-Level Stock Returns During Pandemics, in Real Time," NBER Working Papers 26950, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Greyling, Talita & Rossouw, Stephanie & Adhikari, Tamanna, 2020. "A tale of three countries: How did Covid-19 lockdown impact happiness?," GLO Discussion Paper Series 584, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    15. De Santis, Roberto A. & Van der Veken, Wouter, 2020. "Forecasting macroeconomic risk in real time: Great and Covid-19 Recessions," Working Paper Series 2436, European Central Bank.
    16. Alessandro Bucciol & Luca Zarri, 2017. "The Lasting Legacy of Traumatic Events on Life Satisfaction," Working Papers 13/2017, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    17. Akay, Alpaslan & Bargain, Olivier & Elsayed, Ahmed, 2018. "Everybody's a Victim? Global Terror, Well-Being and Political Attitudes," Working Papers in Economics 733, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    18. Lesley Chiou & Catherine Tucker, 2020. "Social Distancing, Internet Access and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 26982, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Brancati, Emanuele & Brancati, Raffaele, 2020. "Heterogeneous Shocks in the Covid-19 Pandemic: Panel Evidence from Italian Firms," GLO Discussion Paper Series 649, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    20. Mangiavacchi, Lucia & Piccoli, Luca & Pieroni, Luca, 2020. "Fathers Matter: Intra-Household Responsibilities and Children's Wellbeing during the COVID-19 Lockdown in Italy," IZA Discussion Papers 13519, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item


    Boredom; COVID-19; Loneliness; Well-being;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:552. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.