The 2021 syndicate research report by the Behavioural and Communication Research Division decided to utilise the annual Happiness Index data somewhat differently.  Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, health has become the predominant driver of happiness, affecting mood states, and influencing the consciousness of South Africans and consequently also their behaviour.  The media’s pervasive coverage and influence on the response to the pandemic makes the research on general mood states and mood states experienced during the pandemic particularly topical.  To this end, the self-assessment manikin (SAM) measure used in the cross-sectional Happiness Index study since 2012 (Joubert & Poalses 2012) is suited to measure moods due to underlying theoretical assumptions underlying the instrument.  By limiting the data analysis to a single instrument provides rich and focused information, focusing on the reflection of life in greater depth, and providing a more prominent concept of well-being.

A series of events that preceded the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns are presented. These included, amongst others, the swearing in of Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa to a five-year term as president of South Africa, national elections, inequality, unemployment, corruption, economic insecurity, the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture, xenophobic violence, the rights of people with disabilities, gender-based violence, the right to health and a healthy environment, Eskom’s load shedding and student protests.  These emotively laden matters escalated and are regarded important and newsworthy political and socio-economic incidents and occurrences that could have already had an impact on the mood states of South Africans when the pandemic and national lockdown eventually ensued.

An analytical synopsis of positive, negative, and ambivalent mood state measures from 2012 to 2020 is presented below.  The range of colours represent the year-to-year trends, with dark green being most favourable followed by the lighter greens, then yellow, orange and lastly red being most negative.  It should be noted that the figures displayed represent overall trends, and any interpretation thereof is general in nature, as significant demographical and socio-economic differences are evident.  Disaggregated analyses and interpretations with comparative general and COVID-related mood states are presented in the comprehensive BMR syndicate research report.  These include age, gender, population group, relationship status, province, education, personal income, and employment status.

Upon closer examination it is evident that approximately three in four participants expressed positive moods between 2012 and 2018.  The 2020 general mood state rating remained comparable to previous years suggesting that participants are able to express how they feel with greater confidence, without a sense of ambivalence about it. When confronted with the Covid-19 pandemic ambivalent general mood states have, however, increased considerably during 2020.  The implication for consumer and business behaviour is that these moods influence attitudes and ultimately the intentionality of behaviour. A strong emotive state, whether positive or negative, will influence the sentiments driving decision making and ultimately the behaviour of consumers.

Demographic variables showing the greatest difference between the general and COVID-19 positive mood states revealed interesting findings to be of value to marketers as this insight into specific consumer segments could be of strategic importance for certain products and services.

In addition, the research also gauged qualitative insights to obtain a more in-depth understanding of the emotive impact of COVID-19 on well-being, whether positive or negative.  While substantially more comments alluded to a negative influence on well-being, a large number of comments indicated a positive sentiment, and a few also indicated both positive and negative.  In short, the following predominant positive and negative themes emerged from the array of verbatim comments:

Interesting findings were revealed across all demographic variables.  However, the most telling findings resulted from measuring the difference between the general mood and the COVID-19 mood.   All demographic variables yielded statistically significant differences.   The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on human lives, claiming about 4 million deaths worldwide, of which more than 62 000 deaths occurred in South Africa at the time of this report.  As such, there are increasing calls to consider the impact of COVID-19 on people’s psychological well-being and mental health.  It is important to keep the information about the Coronavirus, pandemic, and lockdown salient, honest, transparent, and forthcoming.  The role of the South African Government, media releases and research of this nature are therefore deemed pivotal in the manner in which the South African population may be perceiving the pandemic emotively.  From a consumer perspective, consumers have been necessitated to approach their purchasing behaviour differently, and in response to this, marketers would generally have had to adjust their marketing appeals and campaigns accordingly to align to different lockdown level protocols. The findings from this study confirms the significantly change in emotive mood states caused by the ubiquitous presence of COVID-19 and presents a number of guidelines for marketers to take into consideration during marketing campaigns when targeting specific markets.

TRACKING MOOD STATES CONSIDERING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC (Research Report No 514).  For any enquiries regarding the research study, please contact Ms Jacolize Poalses at or Prof Pierre Joubert at who are the compilers of the report.

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