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Twenty Plenty is how the new year 2020 was initially greeted. But hopes of a “Happy new decade” were swiftly crushed.

In January 2020, South Africa hit an all-time monthly low, according to the Happiness Index, which started recording the happiness levels of South Africans  in April 2019.

The Happiness Index, or Gross National Happiness Index (GNH), developed in a combined project between Prof Talita Greyling (University of Johannesburg), Dr Stephanié Rossouw (Auckland University of Technology) and Afstereo, and is based on sentiment analysis of the daily tweets of South Africans, from which they derive a happiness score.

The scale of happiness runs from zero to 10, with five being neutral.

"Unfortunately, the increase in affect happiness after the 2019 elections was short-lived and we are now at the lowest average happiness levels since the index was launched," the team said on Monday.

“Happy New Decade” crushed as SA reaches lowest levels of happiness, index shows.

“Happy New Decade” crushed as SA reaches lowest levels of happiness, index shows.
Image: The Happiness Index

Driving the unhappiness of South Africans, according to the team, is summarised by the words of former president Nelson Mandela: “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children.”

A "staggering number of tragic child deaths, which in many instances could have been prevented if there were better child care" heralded the start of the year. The majority of lives were lost to drownings, but there was also the "unmentionable, rape, torture and filicide of our most vulnerable."

On the economic front, the number of corporations such as Massmart, Telkom and Absa either shutting down and retrenching or simply downsizing their staff added to SA's woes.

Eskom's loadshedding added to a bleak outlook for 2020, generating negative sentiment about the fear of stage 8.

The national matric results released on January 6 added to short-lived happiness, as many believe the pass rate of 81.3% is a misleading notion. There was also concern about the future of these matriculants, given the perceived lack of jobs and limited funds to pursue tertiary training.

Sport added its own flavour to South Africa’s happiness levels. The happiness highs after the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup, was eroded by the series loss of the Proteas to the English cricket team.

On a happier note, nature added a smile to the faces of Joburgers, as swarms of the white-winged butterflies descended on Johannesburg.

The promises and actions taken by President Cyril Ramaphosa to place qualified people in key state posts also resulted in positive sentiment and increases in happiness levels, said the team.

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