The good, the bad and the ugly of lockdowns during Covid-19

Talita Greyling, Stephanie Rossouw, Tamanna Adhikari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Amidst the rapid global spread of Covid-19, many governments enforced country-wide lockdowns, with likely severe well-being consequences. In this regard, South Africa is an extreme case suffering from low levels of well-being, but at the same time enforcing very strict lockdown regulations. In this study, we analyse the causal effect of a lockdown and consequently, the determinants of happiness during the aforementioned. A difference-in-difference approach is used to make causal inferences on the lockdown effect on happiness, and an OLS estimation investigates the determinants of happiness after lockdown. The results show that the lockdown had a significant and negative impact on happiness. In analysing the determinants of happiness after lockdown, we found that stay-at-home orders have positively impacted happiness during this period. On the other hand, other lockdown regulations such as a ban on alcohol sales, a fear of becoming unemployed and a greater reliance on social media have negative effects, culminating in a net loss in happiness. Interestingly, Covid-19, proxied by new deaths per day, had an inverted U-shape relationship with happiness. Seemingly people were, at the onset of Covid-19 positive and optimistic about the low fatality rates and the high recovery rates. However, as the pandemic progressed, they became more concerned, and this relationship changed and became negative, with peoples' happiness decreasing as the number of new deaths increased.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0245546
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1 January
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Multidisciplinary


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