UJ expert looks at the impact of load shedding on our emotions

The University of Johannesburg (UJ)’s Professor Talita Greyling, a well-being economist, has looked at the crisis of load-shedding and has provided statistics to check just how the continuous blackouts impact our emotions.

Professor Greyling found that the emotions Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness almost doubled comparing 13 -16 April 2022 to the same period in 2023.

See her analysis below:

The emotions Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness almost doubled comparing 13 -16 April 2022 to the same period in 2023 (see Figure 1) with the announcement of stage 6 load-shedding and rumours of a looming stage 10 load-shedding.  Stage 10 load shedding implies that citizens will only receive 40 hours of electricity in a 96-hour (4-day) period. Happiness levels decreased markedly from 6.8 (the average for 2022) to 6.6.

Figure 1: Negative emotions

Source: GNH.today Project ((https://gnh.today/)

People are angry due to the lack of electricity and the inconvenience of not having power (see Table 1).  They are fearful of losing their jobs and a lack of quality education as children severely suffer from not having access to essential services such as “light” to study. They show disgust at the inability of ESKOM and the Government to address the problem, and sadness is increasing due to the bleak outlook of the future.

The increase in load-shedding is likely strongly correlated to higher inflation rates, increasing interest rates, and dwindling economic growth, which all contribute to increasing negative emotions.

Surging negative emotions can lead to action such as violent demonstrations and civil unrest,  though one should remember that all emotions are present in a country.  Positive emotions such as joy and trust (positive) (government and society) can act as ‘active ingredients in coping and thriving despite increasing negative emotions.  It has been shown that “hope” is an essential element of positive emotions.  From a policy point of view, increasing “hope” can be nurtured by revealing clear transparent plans to address load shedding.

Happier people are more productive, healthier and more supportive of institutions.

From the literature, we know that negative emotions are not direct measures of mental health. However, negative emotions are often highly related to mental health, such as feelings of depression and losing interest in life.

Examples of the tweets that showed anger, disgust, sadness and fear (note: the tweet text is the original text as extracted from Twitter):

Below are tweets extracted from Twitter related to load-shedding:

  1. @CityPowerJhb But this is not fair at four o clocks we need to be up and go to work at five, why loaded at that time thing f us we use taxis to travel to work it turns to be dark and we get robbed by thugs outside cuz of it’s dark Alexandra township it’s dangerous
  2. We are in trouble the loadshedding thing is a mass problem parents and people are out of jobs…youth ekasi is in drugs…no skill…no education…thina abantu abazamayo are the victims of criminal activities wabantu base kasi who are unemployed…this are tough times indeed
  3. here was loadshedding at 4pm to 8pm .Then again at midnight to 4am .Now again 8am to 10 am. This country is driving me crazy . Whatt the hell
  4. let’s work had so we go home early today.Loadshedding said fvck that why would I go home at this rate https://t.co/dCjgeUFWZN
  5. Let’s normalise smiling during loadshedding,we need to light up our country
  6. All this loadshedding what in the shitshow is going on
  7. We are in trouble the loadshedding thing is a mass problem parents and people are out of jobs…youth ekasi is in drugs…no skill…no education…thina abantu abazamayo are the victims of criminal activities wabantu base kasi who are unemployed…this are tough times indeed

**Technical Support by AFSTEREO.

The Happiness and emotion levels are measured using the GNH (Gross National Happiness ).today Index (https://gnh.today/). The project was launched in April 2019 by Prof Talita Greyling (University of Johannesburg), Dr Stephanie Rossouw (Auckland University of Technology) and Afstereo to measure the real-time emotions and happiness levels of South Africans. They construct the indices by extracting real-time tweets from Twitter, encoding them using Natural Language Processing (machine learning methods) and applying a balancing equation to derive Happiness and eight emotion measures per hour and daily. The project received the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Innovation in 2021—furthermore, the GNH. Today data was accepted as official statistical data by New Zealand, the world leader in well-being policy.

*The views expressed in this article are that of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect that of the University of Johannesburg.

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