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Happiness level reaches all time low in SA, says study

Happiness levels in South Africa reached an all-time low following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday that the country was moving to adjusted level 4 of the lockdown.

President Cyril Ramaphosa Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jul 1, 2021

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DURBAN - HAPPINESS levels in South Africa reached an all-time low following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday that the country was moving to adjusted level 4 of the lockdown.

This was revealed by a study conducted by the University of Johannesburg as part of the Gross National Happiness index, measuring the mood of South Africans.

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“The nation has been experiencing considerable mood swings in the last few days of June.

“On June 27, with the announcement of the level 4 lockdown, happiness levels dropped to an all-time low of 4, the lowest happiness levels ever measured in South Africa since 2019,” the report released yesterday stated.

The depressed mood – the study indicated – continued throughout Monday and Tuesday, remaining way beneath the long-term average of 6.6 and even below the short-term average of June, at 6.2.

During the period under review, the number of tweets related to Covid19, vaccines and the lockdown almost doubled in volume.

However, according to the report, on Tuesday, from noon, the mood lifted somewhat to 6.3, which is above the short-term average – with “Zuma” being the trending topic (#jacobzuma and #zuma).

The increase in the happiness index suggests that the positive emotions related to former president Jacob Zuma being sentenced to jail.

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The report is part of an ongoing study done by the Gross National Happiness team.

It is is a real-time measure of the mood of a nation, done by Professor Talita Greyling from the University of Johannesburg and Dr Stephanie Rossouw from Auckland University of Technology.

The index is developed by studying tweets and the underlying emotions of tweets.

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They differentiate between eight emotions – anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust.

According to the study, the tweets revealed a fear of worsening economic conditions and further losses of jobs.

For parents the main concern was their children’s schooling.

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Greyling said the index was developed in 2019, ahead of the elections, with the intention being to determine how political activities impact on the mood of citizens.

She added that Tuesday’s lift in the mood demonstrated confidence in the country’s legal system.

“The underlying sentiment from the tweets was that the principle of equality before the law was underlined by the judgment – when the former head of state was handed a jail sentence,” the professor told The Mercury.

She noted that while there were strong feelings of sadness and anger on the Constitutional Court’s judgment, these had been outweighed by the mood of happiness recorded on Tuesday.

The academic also indicated that there had also been a change in attitude towards vaccines, with many people now calling for a swift roll-out, to allow life to return to normal.

“What is needed is an efficient roll-out of vaccines and consistency in measures implemented and, furthermore, assurance of a positive economic outlook and measures to guarantee the safety of children, and allow them to attend school.

“The upward movement in the happiness index, due to Zuma being sentenced to jail, will be shortlived.

“The crux is that the nation is depressed and active policy interventions are needed to turn this around,” she concluded.

According to Greyling, the country’s mood reached an all time high in November 2019 – when South Africa beat England to win the Rugby World Cup.

THE MERCURY

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