Societal Issues Worldwide Show Up In Search And Performance

Identifying societal issues through search can become a powerful resource for marketers as they craft campaigns to better address the needs of consumers and communities with messages. Many times businesses and brands are among the most influential to make change.

Semrush created the Annual Global Issues Index (AGII) in collaboration with Columbia Professor Jeremy Kagan, using data from more than 200 million panelists and analyzing them through machine-learning algorithms.

The plan is to do an annual study on the topic. It can help marketers gain insight into consumers just prior to the holiday season and give travelers to these countries the insights related to societal issues before they travel.

The report is designed to reveal what people across the globe search for related to 24 societal issues, offering an in-depth look at the top 10 most-searched issues in 35 countries during the past five years.



It also reveals three of the most-visited websites across corporate social responsibility initiatives, non-governmental agencies and government programs that combat these issues.

The 24 issues analyzed include abortion, clean water, sustainability, domestic violence, war on drugs, energy, food security, gun control, healthcare, homelessness, human trafficking, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, migration, misinformation, pollution, poverty, privacy, public health, racism, unemployment, education, and college debt.

Mental health, war on drugs, and sustainability have emerged in 2023 as the most-searched societal issues worldwide. The top 10 most searched global issues in 2023 and their scores include:

  1. Mental health -- 288
  2. War on drugs -- 265
  3. Sustainability -- 264
  4. Public health -- 257
  5. Pollution -- 235
  6. Education -- 166
  7. Unemployment -- 80
  8. Inflation -- 73
  9. Migration -- 69
  10. Energy -- 61

It’s interesting to learn through search queries what is on the minds of people worldwide. Kagan wrote in the report that mental health took the top spot this year, reflecting the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and current societal and economic turmoil. Unemployment also jumped two spots -- so it it’s likely that Canadians, like those in the U.S., are concerned with reports of inflation and layoffs.

Kagan also called out in the report that abortion, racism, and college debt had large increases in search activity, likely linked to the political environment and shifts in policy.

“Mental health is a proxy for gun violence and crime in some groups, so this issue may be more important than it appears at first glance,” he wrote. “Personal concerns around Unemployment seem to reflect the pandemic and post pandemic layoffs in the tech industry. With the Unemployment rate at historic lows, this seems to be driven by fear of the future and general uncertainty.”

European concerns about energy, pollution, and sustainability grew as the war in Ukraine impacted energy policies in 2023 based on the search data. Continued unusual weather patterns as a result of climate change may have played a part as well, the data shows. Online interest in the war on drugs from Europeans also climbed.

In the Oceania region, people are searching mostly for information related to mental health and sustainability. Interest in the war on drugs and inflation have gained momentum, but mental health more than doubled its next closest issue in Australia, and in New Zealand.

In the Middle East, people search for information related to education and college debt. A growing inability to access affordable schooling, especially tertiary education, in this region is likely causing these significant jumps. Searches for mental health are also significant.

Pollution and sustainability topics were heavily searched by people in Africa this year, but they were not in Asia. The analyzed countries in Asia were more concerned about the drugs and mental health.

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