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Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 33–53 | Cite as

Happiness Trends Under Democracy: Where Will the New South African

  • Valerie Møller
Article

Abstract

Five years after South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994, life satisfaction and happiness still reflect societal divides sowed by apartheid social engineering. The paper reports the indicators: life satisfaction, happiness and expectations for the future, from national surveys conducted between 1983 and 1999 for the South African Quality-of-Life Trends Project. Post-election euphoria, which saw all South Africans happy and satisfied with life for a brief moment in 1994, raises the question where the new set-level of subjective well-being will eventually come to rest. In 1999, in spite of some gains in living conditions, the level of life satisfaction of blacks has not risen above the mid-point and happiness is only slightly above the mid-point. Meanwhile, whites, who have forfeited their political dominance, continue to score above the mid-point on happiness and life satisfaction. The paper draws on the literature, particularly on quality-of-life trends in reunified Germany and paradoxical trends in African-American life satisfaction when discussing the dynamics underlying South African subjective well-being. It is argued that coping mechanisms may play an important role in determining levels of subjective well-being in the complex situation of South Africa.

expectations happiness life satisfaction relative deprivation South Africa. 

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

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  • Valerie Møller

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