“Happy New Decade” crushed as SA reaches lowest levels of happiness

​What should have been elaborate happiness experienced by South Africans, as we all welcomed the first month of the ‘new’ decade turned out to be everything but. For January 2020, South Africa hit an all-time monthly low, according to the Happiness Index, since it started recording the happiness of South Africans on 30 April 2019.

The Happiness Index (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, is based on sentiment analysis of the daily Tweets of South Africans, from which they derive a happiness score. The scale of the happiness scores is between 0 and 10, with 5 being neutral, thus neither happy nor unhappy. 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 (see graph).


What is driving the unhappiness of South Africans? In the words of Madiba “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children” (Sept. 27, 1997). Regrettably, President Ramaphosa had to chastise South Africa for failing to protect her children, after a staggering number of tragic child deaths, which in many instances could have been prevented, if there were better child care. The majority of lives were lost to drownings, but then there was also the unmentionable, rape, torture and filicide, of our most vulnerable.

On the economic front, the vast number of corporations, such as Massmart, Telkom and ABSA either shutting down and retrenching or simply downsizing their staff added to our woes. Furthermore, Eskom introducing stage 8 loadshedding schedules, added to a bleak outlook for 2020.

The national matric results released on 6 January, added to short lived happiness, as many believe the pass rate of 81.3% is a misleading notion. Also, what is the future of these matriculants? There are no jobs and very limited funds to pursue tertiary training.

As always, 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 against the English cricket team.

Is there something to be happy about? Nature added a smile to the faces of Jo’burgers, as swarms of the white-winged butterflies descended on Johannesburg, bringing hope for a happier future. Also, the promises and actions taken by President Ramaphosa, to place qualified people in key state posts, showed positive sentiment and increases in happiness levels.

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