A glimmer of hope is evident among South Africans’ life satisfaction, despite general and declining low levels of happiness during the past decade.

The Bureau of Market Research’s (Pty) Ltd. (BMR) annual Happiness Index study, which monitors satisfaction with life, indicates higher levels of adaptability and hope as South Africans believe they can ensure their own happiness.  South Africans’ ability to adapt to changing and difficult life circumstances with the hope that their situations will improve, dictates the key drivers for the rising life satisfaction levels in some satisfaction indicators in 2023.   In 2022 the BMR-study reported that South Africans’ life satisfaction levels declined the preceding 10 years and reached the lowest level since the start of the study in 2012.   However, the 2023 results reveal a glimmer of hope with more South Africans feeling seemingly more satisfied about some life spheres.

The 2023 BMR-study among 2 005 respondents indicates improved levels of satisfaction towards work, financial position, family and emotional wellness that increased during the past year, despite an overall downward trend in these indicators during the past 11 years.  However, South Africans’ satisfaction towards their parental roles and physical health declined, and dissatisfaction towards both the economic climate and political climate represents the highest increase in unhappiness to date.  On a positive note, the BMR’s findings showcase lower levels of psychological stress evident among South Africans.  On the contrary, the BMR research indicate declining levels of consumer trust coupled with increasing distrust in the national government, municipalities and Police service.    According to the BMR study, South Africans also expressed lower and limited trust regarding internet security, online shopping, financial institutions, media, and popular brand names.

The BMR consumer happiness indicator excerpts as derived from six measures (mood and attitudinal monitor, happiness with 15 life spheres, general psychological wellness, life satisfaction, locus of control, and consumer trust and confidence regarding 27 identified practices and institutions) is presented below:

BMR consumer happiness indicator excerpts

According to Dr Poalses (BMR Senior Researcher) research on the state of happiness of a nation is regarded as important for understanding the well-being beyond economic indicators.  The purpose of this research is to inform policy decisions and to guide social progress goals.  By prioritising life satisfaction research, the government, business, and civil society can work towards creating environments that foster well-being and enhance the quality of life of citizens.

The Behavioural and Communication Research Division of the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) pioneered the construction of a Happiness Index in 2012 among graduates.  The measurement instrument is grounded in existing international models, comprising six measures of happiness antecedents.  The 2023 report presents an eleven-year trend analysis for selected indicators of happiness and life satisfaction.

HAPPINESS INDEX 2023 report (Research Report no 527) was compiled by Dr Jacolize Poalses (Senior Researcher) in collaboration with Prof DH Tustin (Chief Executive Officer) from the Bureau of Market Research.

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