Reactions to macro-level shocks and reexamination of adaptation theory using Big Data

Talita Greyling, Stephanié Rossouw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since 2020, the world has faced two unprecedented shocks: lockdowns (regulation) and the invasion of Ukraine (war). Although we realise the health and economic effects of these shocks, more research is needed on the effect on happiness and whether the type of shock plays a role. Therefore, in this paper, we determine whether these macro-level shocks affected happiness, how these effects differ, and how long it takes for happiness to adapt to previous levels. The latter will allow us to test whether adaptation theory holds at the macro level. We use a unique dataset of ten countries spanning the Northern and Southern hemispheres derived from tweets extracted in real-time per country. Applying Natural Language Processing, we obtain these tweets' underlying sentiment scores, after which we calculate a happiness score (Gross National Happiness) and derive daily time series data. Our Twitter dataset is combined with Oxford's COVID-19 Government Response Tracker data. Considering the results of the Difference-in-Differences and event studies jointly, we are confident that the shocks led to lower happiness levels, both with the lockdown and the invasion shock. We find that the effect size is significant and that the lockdown shock had a bigger effect than the invasion. Considering both types of shocks, the adaptation to previous happiness levels occurred within two to three weeks. Following our findings of similar behaviour in happiness to both types of shocks, the question of whether other types of shocks will have similar effects is posited. Regardless of the length of the adaptation period, understanding the effects of macro-level shocks on happiness is essential for policymakers, as happiness has a spillover effect on other variables such as production, safety and trust.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0295896
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1 January
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Multidisciplinary


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