In a preliminary investigation[1] to determine what matters for South Africans’ happiness during the pandemic, the results show that the cumulative number of COVID-cases seems not to matter.  What matters are concerns about jobs, and lockdown regulations.  These are the results of Prof Talita Greyling (University of Johannesburg) and Dr Stephanie Rossouw (Auckland University of Technology) who in collaboration with Afstereo launched South Africa’s Happiness Index, based on tweets extracted from Twitter, in April 2019.  In their research they also analyse the underlying emotions of tweets (see www. gnh.today). 

The researchers regressed variables derived from Google Trends, which consider job searches and lockdown regulations, as well as the cumulative number of COVID-cases, controlling for the number of tweets per day, on happiness and found that as the number of job searches increase the happiness of South Africans decrease.  The same is true for lockdown regulations.  Of these two variables, the job search variable has the biggest negative affect on happiness.  Surprisingly the cumulative number of COVID–cases is not significantly related to the Happiness Index, although the relationship is negative.

Considering the lockdown restrictions announced by Dr Dlamini-Zuma last night (29 April 2020), the happiness index showed a significant decrease to 5.99 compared to the daily average for a Thursday of 6.3 (see the graph below).  Analysing the tweets and the emotions underpinning these tweets, it is clear that the people are angry, frustrated and confused.  According to the tweets it seems that the people are concerned about the many contradicting messages revealed by the restrictions, which seem to defy logic.  Furthermore, the tweets reveal that an explanation for these restrictions is needed (the “why”).  This is in contrast to the lockdown regulations announced by President Ramaphosa, in which the “why” was clearly spelled out.


Happiness index (Gross National Happiness SA)

Source: Authors’ own calculations using GNH data (www.gnh.today)


The current sentiment of South Africans’, increases the likelihood of social-unrest, protests, and riots, which challenges the maintenance of law and order, especially considering that these regulations stem from the fear of spreading COVID, which seems not to matter, if the happiness of South Africans is considered.


Prof Talita Greyling (talitag@uj.ac.za)

Wellbeing Economist, University of Johannesburg, Board of directors International Society of Quality of Life Studies, Co-editor Journal of Happiness Studies.

Dr Stephanié Rossouw (stephanie.rossouw@aut.ac.nz)

Wellbeing Economist, Auckland University of Technology, Vice-President Finance for International Society of Quality of Life Studies, Editor Journal of Happiness Studies. 

Technical Support by AFSTEREO.


[1] The full report is due at the end of May

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