On 27 March 2020, all South Africans went into lockdown following regulations that were implemented by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19, it was to help prepare health systems to cope with the expected increased epidemic of Covid-19 cases.
Since then, researchers have been analyzing South Africans' moods. Researchers say that South Africans are generally displaying higher happiness levels since the beginning of the national Covid-19 lockdown, but the reimplementation of the ban on the sale of alcohol led to an immediate decrease in mood levels.
The research is being done by Gross National Happiness ([GNH] which is the first index of its kind and measures the real-time sentiment of a country by analyzing tweets).
The GNH team comprises Professor Talita Greyling of the University of Johannesburg, Dr Stephanié Rossouw of the Auckland University of Technology, in collaboration with Afstereo.
The happiness index is constructed by monitoring and extracting the tweets of South Africans, New Zealanders and Australians, and analyzing the sentiment of these tweets. A sentiment score which classifies the tweet as either negative, neutral or positive is allocated to each tweet. The sentiment scores are then used in a sentiment balance algorithm to derive the GNH. The GNH is measured on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being very unhappy and 10 being very happy.
Initial research had seen happiness levels increase since the beginning of the lockdown, but due to the second ban on alcohol, the prolonged ban on tobacco products, and also the uncertainty of jobs and fear of job losses, not to mention the economic uncertainty, has drastically decreased the happiness levels.
In South Africa, happiness decreased from an average of 6.32 before Covid-19 to a low of 5.35 with the announcement of the lockdown regulations – a happiness loss of more than 15%.
On 12 July, when President Cyril Ramaphosa reimposed the ban of all alcohol sales with immediate effect, there was an immediate decrease in the happiness levels which reached an all-time per hour low of 4.2 at 8pm that Sunday evening.
Interesting fact, neither the number of Covid-19 cases nor the number of Covid-19 deaths have any effect on happiness.
Analysing the tweets, researchers found the following: Staying at home minimises the risk of contracting Covid-19; therefore, even though the number of Covid-19 cases and Covid-19 deaths do not affect South Africans' happiness, the fear of contracting Covid does play a role.
Researchers also discovered that staying at home which was previously negatively related to happiness, is now positively related to happiness, and that, interestingly, the staying-at-home order in itself increases happiness.