The University of Johannesburg’s Professor Talita Greyling, a wellbeing economist, has looked at the crisis of loadshedding and has provided statistics to investigate how the continuous blackouts impact South Africans’ emotions.
She found that the emotions anger, disgust, fear and sadness almost doubled for the period from April 13 to 16 this year, compared with the same period in 2022. During the period under review, South Africans were faced with Stage 6 loadshedding and rumours that the country could soon face Stage 10 loadshedding.
Happiness levels decreased markedly from 6.8 (the average for 2022) to 6.6 in the period under review, Greyling informs.
“People are angry due to the lack of electricity and the inconvenience of not having power. 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,” Greyling outlines.
She posits that the increase in loadshedding is likely strongly correlated to higher inflation rates, increasing interest rates and dwindling economic growth, which all contribute to an increase in 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, Greyling explains.
“Positive emotions such as joy and trust (positive) 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 loadshedding,” she emphasises.
Happier people are more productive, healthier and more supportive of institutions, Greyling adds.
“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,” Greyling avers.
She references tweets that showed anger, disgust, sadness and fear.
The happiness and emotion levels are measured using the Gross National Happiness Today Index.
The project was launched in April 2019 by Greyling, Dr Stephanie Rossouw from the Auckland University of Technology and broadcast monitoring service 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 hourly and daily.