Happiness in South Africa

Happiness in South Africa

The following happiness article, from the Cape Times, shows (among other things) how happiness can differ in different cultures.

What makes you happy?

Marriage has been shown to contribute to higher levels of happiness in the developed world, but a new University of Cape Town (UCT) study on welfare economics demonstrates this is not necessarily the case in South Africa.

Rather, income levels, quality of life and race are the key markers for happiness here.

In What is the structure of South African Happiness Equations?, Timothy Hinks and Carola Gruen from Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA), a UCT academic research unit, examined SA data to establish whether what makes people in the developed world happy also applied to SA.

In contrast with findings in the developed world, where those who are self-employed tend to be happier than those in formal employment, in SA self-employment tends to be associated with lower levels of well-being.

Hinks and Gruen attributed this to the fact that South Africans who are self-employed tend mainly to be in the informal sector, and are therefore not necessarily well-off economically.

ERSA spokesperson Gloria Halland said research was conducted under the unit’s auspices to establish whether what made people in the developed world happy applied here.

“Research conducted… has shown that economic growth and average satisfaction levels are not correlated over time,” said Halland.

“The finding has spawned debate on whether governments are right in aiming primarily at economic growth, and whether they should instead find ways of improving perceived quality of life.”

In addition, unemployment significantly and negatively affected happiness. This was consistent with elsewhere.

Those who lived in formal dwellings tend to be happier than those who did not.

“Whites and Asians are significantly more likely to report being satisfied with life than blacks are,” she said. – Staff Writer, Sapa

This article was originally published on page 7 of The Cape Times on October 25, 2007